What is CSR “Corporate Social Responsibility” ?

Companies’ involvement in social and environmental matters has always existed but it was not framed in a particular manner. It is only in 1953 that the term Corporate Social Responsibility was invented by the economist Howard bowen in his book “Social responsibilities of the business man”. It is believed that he is the first one to have introduced the concept of CSR. His book is presented as a pioneering work, anticipating and structuring all the theoretical approaches to CSR, and contributing to the construction of a new academic space on the perception of this new concept. Bowen stated in his book that social responsibility is an “economical engineering process”. He believes that CSR can be a way to improve the relationship between economies and society. Nevertheless, it is still until nowadays a notion of ambiguity due to its undefined and changeable application mode.

As stated above, defining CSR might not be as simple as it ought to be. This trendy concept that was named corporate social responsibility is usually linked to ethics and abstract societal causes, but it is far from being charitable and voluntary actions even though it is somehow linked to philanthropy. This confusion made it difficult to set a common definition. There are a lot of ways of how it is being defined but the main principles remain the same.

According to the United Nations industrial development organization Corporate Social Responsibility is:

“A management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.”

Although a common definition has not been defined yet, CSR is generally linked to three areas of actions or as it is called the triple bottom line approach (profit, planet, and people) that takes into consideration all the environmental, social and economic matters related to the company.

The figure above represents the triple bottom line approach of CSR :

  1. Profit, which represents the economic dimension. It is about generating value through the activities provided by the company whether it is a service or a product which results in generating jobs and income.
  2. Planet, the environmental dimension, taking into consideration how the company affects and contributes to the environment and how their activities affect the sustainability of the planet.
  3. People, The social dimension. It is related to the company’s vision and how it is beneficial to human beings and labor. Mainly by ensuring good working conditions.

It is also important to mention that CSR strategies are different from one company to another depending on a lot of factors such as nature of activity, size, and international mobility. A company with 1500 employees, 5units around the world, 100products being sold all over the planet, cannot have the same CSR strategy as a small local factory that makes cheese and sells it in local markets. But, the main principles remain the same which is ensuring a balance between Profit, people and planet.