As environmental awareness grew, more businesses sought to fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibility.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate Social Responsibility is a business model that allows companies to deliver environmental and social values through operational regulation (1). Functioning under this model, companies remain both profitable and environmentally conscious. In particular, businesses with greater financial resources often produce more successful CSR practices. Starting in the late 1990s, the corporate world has made stronger commitments to positive societal contribution. This trend is only estimated to grow in this century thanks to increased public awareness and engagement.
CSR saves the environment
Just around 100 companies contribute nearly 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas production, mostly through fossil fuel consumption and unregulated chemical emissions (2). In a report from National Geographic, 70 percent of all industrial wastes have been improperly treated and freely dumped into sources for drinking water (3).
Fortunately, as customers become more environmentally conscious, they expect companies to undertake the role of engineering practical solutions to ongoing issues. To better reconcile with the customers’ values, companies are acting to reduce their carbon footprints, packaging waste, water consumption, and other parameters of environmental impact (4). Moreover, government subsidies and tax reductions incentivize companies to go green. According to the Green Business Bureau, companies may even generate savings through energy-conserving measures: recycling, use of energy-efficient equipment and solar power, and decreased waste consumption (5).
Many companies have trouble recording accurate numbers in their waste cost calculations due to third party involvements (6). For example, if a firm outsources part of its production process to a third party manufacturer, it could not reliably ensure the latter’s accountability and transparency in said process.
CSR addresses societal issues
Corporate Social Responsibility policies allow businesses to address societal issues and maintain just business practices. For example, many companies now promote a culture that condemns discrimination and harassment among their labor force, thus protecting their employees. Beyond internal operations, companies also help society through donation to philanthropic organizations and volunteering (7). Other prominent issues include child labor, fair trade, and terrible working conditions. A study conducted by MetLife among 1006 employees in the U.S. showed that “70% of employees think their companies should address societal problems” and “over half (52%) expect their employer to solve problems” (8). Companies are therefore incentivized to design and implement business practices that align with their immediate communities’ values.
Companies sometimes struggle when maintaining their ethical and social standards proves financially unsustainable. In other words, the expenses of promoting their social and environmental values may not generate enough customers, hence low return on investment for the company.
CSR gives companies competitive advantages
Customers, investors, and jobseekers have changed their criteria for corporate evaluation. They are now prompted to analyze a company’s CSR statements before making most business decisions. If a company fails to appeal to its customers’ values, it risks losing a significant market share to competing firms that do so. Similarly, investors now look beyond mere revenue generation: they include a company’s CSR performance as a key index in their financial assessment. A recent survey confirmed this trend, as one quarter of shareholders evaluated a company’s ethical standards before making decisions involving their capitals (9). Corporate financial transparency also increases because of these conscientious investors. Moreover, jobseekers also have elevated expectations for a company. It is therefore not surprising that companies with great social and environmental philosophies remain the working class’s favorites.
It is not always simple for a company to be transparent about its transactions because many may contain complicated, confidential material deemed unsuitable for public viewing.
Examples of CSR practice:
Originally a single coffee shop in Seattle, Starbucks has always adhered to its vision to deliver excellent coffee service and make the world a better place. Operating in 50+ countries from its 31,256 stores in 2019, Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the world.
As one of the leading for-profit corporations that uses sustainable practices, Starbuck operates with a mission to give “more than it takes from the planet” by reducing its carbon footprint and promoting fair trade coffee (10).
Starbucks plans to cut half of the carbon footprint and water consumption in its production processes by 2030. In that direction, Starbucks introduced a new sustainable cup for hot liquids, the NextGen Cup, on March 9th, 2020. These cups can already be found in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and London.
Founded by Dr. John Pemberton on May 8, 1886, Coca-Cola first opened at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta, Ga. Today, this world famous brand appears in 200+ countries with 700,000+ employees. Like Starbucks, Coca-Cola is a company with laudable social visions, evident in its mission to “refresh the world” and “make a difference.” Coca-cola strives to make a difference in its industrial operation by moving to environment-friendly processes. Because natural resources, such as water, have been indispensable to its success, Coca-Cola hopes to convey its gratitude to the environment (11).
Coca-cola has made efforts to fulfill its environmental obligation by making a promise to use only recyclable packaging materials by 2025. The company strives to create a “World Without Waste” by working with developers of the gr3n technology for chemical recycling, such as DEMETO, which has already found ways to completely recycle P.E.T. plastic without compromising its quality (12).
Coca Cola has made another commitment to reduce its water consumption in order to achieve its goal of returning 100% of the water to the environment. Shown in the graph above, Coca Cola has significantly reduced its water usage since 2004, from 2.7 to 1.92 liters of water per liter of product.
Incorporating CSR in your business
As the examples of Starbucks and Coca-cola have demonstrated, a business can utilize CSR practices and policies to gain a competitive edge in the market while simultaneously creating important social and environmental values. Consider incorporating CSR practices in your business!
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