What Does Corporate Social Responsibility Look Like?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) poses the question: How can companies contribute to a good society through ethical business practices?

CSR is defined as, “Management’s obligation to make choices and take actions that will contribute to the welfare and interests of society as well as the organization.” While being a good company may seem simple, CSR is rather complex. When considering what actions improve society, different people inevitably have different beliefs. This makes CSR look different from company to company.

At Metis Consulting Group, our definition of CSR aligns with the mission of B Lab, a nonprofit that believes in using business as a force for goodTM. As a Certified B Corporation, our company meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We believe in holistic corporate stewardship, measuring the impact of our decisions on all our stakeholders — from employees and clients to suppliers and our local and global communities.

CSR encompasses a wide range of activities from environmental sustainability efforts to ethical labor practices. CSR is the way companies balance economic, environmental, and social imperatives (i.e. Triple-Bottom-Line Approach), while also serving shareholders and stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to make society better.

While it may seem easy to give money to charity or volunteer, CSR isn’t that simple. CSR is about how companies make money, not just how they spend it. While philanthropic efforts can benefit society, they don’t necessarily lead to systemic change, or widespread change that is sustainable. Socially responsible companies must demand systemic change and become more than economic actors — they must become moral actors as well.

Pillars of Ethical Organizations

Corporate social responsibility involves commitment at every level of the company. Effective CSR results from the combination of three ethical pillars:

  1. Individual ethics. Ethical individuals treat people fairly. These people act with integrity and inspire trust.
  2. Institutional leadership. Ethical leaders embrace ethical values and weave this belief into the organization.
  3. Organizations, structures, and systems. This includes the code of ethics which communicates what the company standards for. Other structures and systems may include formal positions like ethics committees or chief ethics officers.

CSR is not a top-down mandate or a grass roots initiative, it must exist throughout the organization.

Because CSR is so complex, it can be difficult to achieve and recognize. That said, many employers have proven that businesses can contribute to a good and fair society by running their companies in responsible, professional, and sustainable ways.

It’s probably not surprising that CSR leaders include big names like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia. As multibillion dollar companies, this makes sense: they have money to invest in sustainable solutions and ethical practices. But what about smaller companies?

Small to midsize companies have an advantage when it comes to CSR because they are nimble. For example, depending on the size of the facility, small businesses can easily invest in light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs to save energy and money. Or employers can implement flexible work-from-home options to reduce energy consumption and accommodate their employees’ schedules.

At Metis Consulting Group, we are committed to acting in socially responsible ways. Here are a few examples of our commitment to social responsibility:

  • Microloans to sustainable businesses
  • In-kind consulting services and grants to local charitable organizations
  • Progressive paid time off and paid leave policies that allow workers to care for their families
  • Verifiable commitment to a wide range of socially-, economically-, and environmentally-sound business practices through B Corp certification.

Effective CSR isn’t just a way to create a favorable company image. It involves developing mutually beneficial relationships with every stakeholder — from employees to suppliers to the community. While CSR can have a positive impact on a company’s profile and bottom line, that shouldn’t be the driving force. Companies can undoubtedly contribute to a good society through ethical business practices.

If you are interested in learning more about employers who care about the impact they have on employees, the community, and the environment, check out the directory of Certified Benefit Corporations. B Corps are for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Check out our 3-part series on How to Find a Company Where You Can Thrive for more insight into all B Corps have to offer!

Metis Consulting Group is proud to be a Certified B Corporation®. Learn more.

Metis is a New York-based IT consulting firm specializing in data-driven, enterprise-wide Internet and Intranet software applications.