CSR – or just a facade?

CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. Companies not only focus on themselves any longer. It is important “to serve in one´s own interest as well as those of society”, that is the broad definition taught at business schools. Every well-known company has a CSR branch nowadays. But is it real or just a facade? A halo that clears the company´s as well as the consumer´s conscience? Hence, the following questions will have to be answered (or at least discussed) in the next few weeks:

1) CSR – just marketing? 
2) Did the curious consumer really become conscious?

Let´s start with the first one. The impact of CSR, its “popularity” reveals the need for change in our society. Somehow, capitalism has to be purged and we feel like we need to justify our consumption. We all become “eco-friendly” and fall for (sometimes false) labels signifying some products as superior in terms of sustainability. But frankly, do we all really mean it? And more importantly – do the companies mean it? Did we simply create a parallel world, where we all act ethically and everything is fine? Many bloggers deal with this questions, mostly depicting their disapproval of the concept of CSR, because it is – according to them – a “big fat lie“.

None of the comments made on the bloggers´ articles defends CSR: 

One states:

“To me it sounds like CSR is one of those things that sounds better on paper than what is actually does when it is actually put into action. […]”

whereas another has the same point, claiming:

“It seems that the only reason anyone cares about environmental disasters is because they have economic implication in the future. It’s just like the BP oil spill. Its not the oil polluting the waters that anyone seems to care about, its the pollution in the waters causing loses to local businesses that is actually forcing public outcry. So its not just companies that have to pretend that they care about the environment, its consumers and small businesses too that are forced to pretend that the care about the environment”.

So generally speaking, CSR does not seem to have a good reputation among web users. But nevertheless, it has another aspect that is not to be left unnoticed, an aspect worth acknowledging the advantages of CSR. 

According to Craig Smith, professor of Ethics and Social Responsibility at the INSEAD business school

“[t]he upside is that more companies are realising that corporate responsibility and sustainability are linked to competitiveness; and sustainability could very well be the next major change businesses need to adapt to […]”.  Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks and Spencer (supposedly the UK’s greenest retailer) declared that “particularly for companies that are concerned about their reputation and are here for the long term, [CSR] is an investment and it’s a necessary investment that they need to make to protect their reputation, apart from motives they may have for doing the right thing”.

Thus, the ultimate question that still is uncertain remains: CSR – doing the right things with wrong motivation? Follow my next blog posts for further explanations, aspects, and opinions on this topic!