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Debunking the social myth

How can you make a business case for investing in ethical practices when many practitioners and even academics are not sure of the link ...

By Rebecca Harding 01 June 2005

How can you make a business case for investing in ethical practices when many practitioners and even academics are not sure of the link between CSR and delivering performance and competitiveness?

Debunking the social myth
Rebecca Harding suggests removing the “social” from CSR.

Any company’s route to responsible and sustainable operations depends on its current size and complexity, its sector, its shareholders and how its customers and employees perceive its brand values. The nature of CSR is hard to define because different stakeholders have such different opinions about it. Does your company commit enough to CSR? Does it over-commit? The chances are that whatever your CSR activities, some observers will think you don’t do enough, and others will feel you do too much.

Many companies, when they ask themselves what CSR they undertake, find that they already do much of what is expected of a “responsible firm”. But the confusion surrounding what CSR actually is and the doubt about the right level of commitment prevents companies from robustly addressing some of the big social, ethical and environmental challenges.

CSR is something of a Holy Grail for twenty-first century business. It would be marvellous if we could discover it, but it’s more constructive to face the fact that we’re not going to. Instead of offering more fruitless advice for chasing it, some of the myths that surround the debate need to be replaced by some practical advice.


Myth 1: Most companies don’t undertake CSR


Instead of agonising over what you should do about CSR, try reversing the question and consider whether or not you are already a responsible business. The biggest myth about CSR rests in the answer to this question. Much of what companies do as a matter of course is good management practice, and if the social element of CSR is removed, many companies will find they are fully committed to Corporate Responsibility. As a relatively new term, CR is of more use to a company that wants to commit to being a responsible firm than the loaded term CSR, which means different things to different people.

Identifying whether your CR policies are up to scratch is a more straightforward operation. For example, do you have company values? Do you roll out your recruitment and retention strategies in line with these values and make sure that people and their creativity are at the heart of your business? Do you think about your customers and their values, expectations and ’ Do you invest in social or environmental projects as part of a commitment to deepening your community base?

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