There has been a seismic shift in how companies market themselves and their respective goods and services. The primary reason for the shift seems to be a changing consumer base; one that incorporates social, environmental and ethical issues into their buying decisions. Pressure from these more socially conscious consumers has driven companies to adopt more robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies in order not only maintain customers but garner new ones as well. It now seems that in all most every advertisement there is some mention of the company’s CSR endeavors. Over the last few decades major corporations have shifted their focus from one of a mostly profit driven focus to one in which CSR has become integrated into their business culture. While an increased emphasis on CSR will most definitely enhance a company’s image in a positive way, whether it will equate to actual success in terms of either market share and or profits is speculative. The CSR efforts of each company will determine how the public perceives those efforts and if the efforts are merely attempts to generate more revenue or sincere efforts to make a difference.
CSR has been defined in many different ways. CSR is generally understood to be the way a company achieves a balance or integration of economic, environmental and social imperatives while at the same time addressing shareholder and stakeholder expectations. It is about meeting the current needs and ensuring the future generation’s needs are not compromised upon (Gupta & Sharma, 2009, p. 397). Consider also the following definitions of CSR (Schwartz & Saiia, 2012, p. 4):
- The idea of social responsibilities supposes that the corporation has not only economic and legal obligations but also certain responsibilities to society that extend beyond these obligations;
- Social responsibility is the obligation of decision makers to take actions that protect and improve the welfare of society as a whole along with their own interests; and
- The social responsibility of business encompasses the economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary [i.e., philanthropic] expectations that society has of organizations at a given point in time.
Of the definitions above the fourth one is the most intriguing. At any given in point in time the way the public views a firms CSR efforts can change. What a company does today in terms of CSR may be out of fashion or considered archaic based on external factors such as, politics, government regulations, technology, and demographics.
Companies need to be mindful of the changing world. CSR programs need to change accordingly. This does not mean that a company cannot hold fast to the core beliefs of its owners or shareholders, but a company may risk alienating a large segment of consumers if their CSR practices are not in touch with the times or do not concentrate on the pressing societal issues presently occurring. Right now in America and around the...