Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.
CSR is generally understood as a means through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives, while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.
CSR is not the same thing as a charity, sponsorships or philanthropy. CSR is generally thought of as a strategic business management concept. In order for a company to be socially responsible, it first needs to be responsible to itself and its shareholders. Often, companies that adopt CSR programs have grown their business to the point where they can give back to society. Consequently, corporate social responsibility is largely a strategy of large corporations.
Additionally, the more visible and successful a corporation is, the more responsibility it has to set standards of ethical behavior for its peers, competition and industry.
To help clarify matters for some corporations, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released a set of voluntary standards meant to help companies implement corporate social responsibility. Known as ISO 26000, this standard provides guidance rather than requirements because the nature of CSR is more qualitative than quantitative, and its standards cannot be certified. Instead, ISO 26000 clarifies what social responsibility is and helps organizations translate CSR principles into effective actions.
The standard is aimed at all types of organizations regardless of their activity, size or location. And, because many key stakeholders from around the world contributed to developing ISO 26000, this standard represents an international consensus.
The Seven Key Principles of ISO 26000, advocated as the roots of socially responsible behavior, are:
- Ethical behavior
- Respect for stakeholder interests
- Respect for the rule of law
- Respect for international norms of behavior
- Respect for human rights
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