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What Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? | WGU

Dec 22, 2021

Seventy percent of consumers say they prioritize brands that are doing good in the world. To meet this rising demand, many companies are integrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their operations efforts.

By definition, CSR is a management concept used to ensure a company’s day-to-day practices are ethical and beneficialfor society. It often includes a set of initiatives that cover a range of issues, from human rights to the environment. 

CSR has been around since the 1970s, but it’s been gaining traction in recent years. Many of today’s consumers, employees, and even stakeholders place a high value on CSR and expect companies to be accountable for creating social change and making responsible choices. Organizations that prove their commitment to humanity and the environment are perceived more positively, which can result in greater long-term growth and profits.

This article will expand on the types of CSR, how it impacts corporations, and how you can develop a socially responsible business.

What Are Types of Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility can come in many forms. As a current or aspiring business leader, consider these four types of corporate social responsibility and how you can implement programs that are beneficial for the community, your shareholders, and your company.


One growing focus of CSR is the environment. Companies can demonstrate environmental friendliness by focusing their efforts on energy use, recycling, emissions, eco-friendly packaging, responsible environmental impact, and more. 


These types of initiatives are put in place to ensure all stakeholders in a company are treated fairly—from employees to investors to customers. Some common examples of this would be increasing employee wages, ensuring diversity, creating safe and healthy work environments for workers, or refusing to partner with unethical businesses or partners.


Donating to charity is probably the most common example of philanthropic social responsibility, but there are many others. Philanthropy focused CSR can include investing in community projects, funding educational programs, or contributing to health initiatives.


This type of CSR focuses on improving a company’s business operations while also participating in the responsible practices listed above. In this context, economic decisions are made by considering their overall effect on society, business, and the environment.

What Are the Impacts of Corporate Social Responsibility?

Recent studies have shown that deploying corporate governance with an effective CSR program can have widespread impacts on companies, employees, and consumers, as outlined below.


Not until recently have companies seen the value of CSR as a differentiator capable of generating a competitive advantage. Research shows that businesses that take social responsibility seriously can not only improve their public image and attract more consumers but also create new opportunities to market and earn their audience’s attention. Effective CSR has also been shown to boost business bottom line and deliver a higher ROI when compared with a company with the same products that doesn’t engage in CSR, according to a study by Project ROI.


CSR creates value for consumers because it’s concerned with their needs and values. Studies show that organizations that pay attention to consumer needs and continually adapt to them see increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.


CSR can be a major factor when it comes to motivating and attracting talent to a workforce. When employees feel their work makes a positive impact on something they care about, they’re likely to be more engaged and loyal to the company. It’s also been shown to reduce employee turnover by 50%.

There are significant benefits to employing CSR—and some serious risks for companies who don't. In fact, a study by Harvard Business School found that 25% of consumers say they have zero tolerance for brands who engage in socially or environmentally unhealthy behavior. It’s clear that businesses that engage in poor CSR are at risk of losing a lot of current or potential customers.

What are Some Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility?

If you’re looking for inspiration on ways to incorporate CSR into your own company, the following examples are a great place to start. 

  • Google’s CSR efforts focus on its employees and the environment. The company offers its workers free meals at work and free access to campus cafes, micro kitchens, and other options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also invest in renewable energy sources and sustainable offices.
  • LEGO’s environmental sustainability practices include a form of recycling where LEGO bricks are passed from one consumer family to another. By 2030, they intend to make reimagined LEGO products from renewable or recycled resources with sustainable chemistry practices.
  • TOMS donates a large chunk of its profits to charities that support physical and mental health initiatives and educational opportunities. TOMS also gives back by donating a pair of shoes for every TOMS shoe purchased. To date, TOMS has given more than 95 million pairs of shoes to those in need. 

How Can I Develop a Socially Responsible Business?

Whether you’re a current or aspiring business leader, developing an effective CSR strategy will ultimately start with you. Below are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re building a socially responsible workplace. 

Start from within.

Make sure you always follow ethical labor practices. Treat your employees with respect and dignity. Provide fair compensation and create a safe and healthy work environment where employees feel listened to and valued.

Be sincere in your efforts.

Treat CSR as an ongoing effort and not a marketing ploy. Set realistic expectations and re-evaluate them on a regular basis. Launch an internal team that can help support and maintain corporate responsibility. 

Involve your team.

Educate employees about the importance of CSR and get them involved in your efforts. Create an internal awareness campaign and regularly report on the performance of your social responsibility strategies. 

Create a purpose-driven culture.

This starts with clear communication about your company’s mission and values. When everyone understands and supports the company’s purpose, it creates a united front where everyone is working toward the same goals. 

Align your efforts.

Make sure you’re being intentional about the causes you’re contributing to. Prioritize initiatives, nonprofits, or community organizations that relate to your company. 

Consider an online business degree from WGU to help you learn more about corporate social responsibility and how you can be prepared for these types of decisions in the business world.

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