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Corporate social responsibility of companies, organisations and individuals can be defined as a unique way of thinking about engaging in business activities and as an awareness of the influence of its values on people, the society, the environment, the situation and processes in the market.

This means that enterprises, organisations and individuals alike are all responsible not only for their economic and legal activities, but also for their social activity and the accomplishment of its goals. Commitment to responsibility understood in social terms manifests itself among others by the following:

  • Raising ethical standards of business activity and work,
  • A strategic direction of activities, integrating all areas of business (e.g. strategy, CSR policy),
  • Transparent information policy (e.g. publishing social reports),
  • Management through values and the construction of organisational culture,
  • Responsibility for employees, business partners and associates (e.g. a chain of supplies and values),
  • Developing solutions to minimise the negative influence on the environment,
  • Systematic dialogue with stakeholders (e.g. employees, non-governmental organisations, local governments, universities, competitors, associations, trade organisations, local communities, investors, clients, the mass media),
  • Developing systemic solutions to support dealing with social issues (e.g. educational projects, mentoring programmes, sharing knowledge and resources).

The concept of corporate social responsibility is wide-ranging and multidisciplinary. The complexity of this term was presented and published in 2010 in the norm ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility. The norm, authored by numerous experts co-operating with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), defines corporate social responsibility as:

Responsibility of an organisation for the influence of its decisions and activities on the society and the environment, demonstrated by transparent and ethical behaviour which:

  1. Contributes to sustainable development,
  2. Contributes to the health and well-being of the society,
  3. Takes into account the stakeholders’ expectations,
  4. Is compliant with the law and coherent with international norms of behaviour,
  5. Is coherent in terms of the organisation and used in its relationships.

Source: www.pkn.pl/iso-26000

CSR norma

The standard supports all kinds of organisations in their efforts to attain strategic benefits that result from conscious and socially responsible activity. One of the basic assumptions behind the voluntary International Standard ISO 26000:2010 is to encourage organisations to step beyond the legally imposed obligations – upon the understanding that obeying the law is a basic responsibility of any organisation as well as an indispensible part of its social responsibility. The key areas and issues discussed in the ISO 26000 standard are the following:

Managing an organisation

  • Human rights
  • Adequate care
  • Human rights threats
  • Avoiding complicity
  • Considering complaints
  • Discrimination and particularly sensitive groups
  • Civil and political rights
  • Economic, social and cultural rights
  • Fundamental rules and rights at the workplace

Managing human resources

  • Employment and work relationship
  • Conditions of work and social care
  • Social dialogue
  • Occupational safety and health
  • Development and training at the workplace

Consumer issues

  • Fair marketing, reliable information, fair standard form contracts
  • Protection of consumers’ health and safety
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Consumer service and support, handling complaints and settling arguments
  • Protection of consumer privacy and personal data
  • Access to essential services
  • Education and consciousness 

Fair business practice

  • Counteracting corruption
  • Responsible political involvement
  • Fair competition
  • Promotion of corporate social responsibility within the value chain
  • Respecting property rights

Natural environment

  • Preventing pollution
  • Sustainable use of resources
  • Counteracting and adjusting to climate changes

Involvement into the community and its development

  • Community involvement
  • Education and culture
  • Creation of workplaces and skills development
  • Development and access to technology
  • Creation of wealth and income
  • Health
  • Social investments

 Przyszosc CSR

CSR as a source of competitive edge

Commitment of entrepreneurs, organisations and individuals to choose a socially responsible way of acting has its measurable benefits. The so-called CSR benefits have been verified through a lot of research and with a number of performance indicators. These benefits manifest themselves as a number of values, including:

  • Development of values for shareholders and investors,
  • Increased involvement of employees,
  • Improvement of risk management processes,
  • Development of organisational culture based on a correct direction of value management,
  • Increase of interest and consideration of buying products and services among clients,
  • Growth in loyalty and stronger inclination to recommend the company’s products and services,
  • Improvement in relationships with the mass media, local governments, universities, local communities, non-governmental organisations and trade associations, business institutions and the public sector,
  • Increase of general interest in the company, organisation or individual among the leaders of the public opinion,
  • A significant influence in terms of the financial outcome,
  • Development in information culture, which consequently affects the reputation and image of the company, organisation or individual as seen by stakeholders.

Social and economic circumstances and the dynamics of technological changes shape CSR continuously. Social changes and economic challenges make companies, organisations and individuals responsible not only in economic and legal, but also in social terms. Incessant necessity to strive for new levels of quality is demanded by both individuals and entire communities. Therefore it is crucial to be able to skilfully manage both the material and non-material sphere of a company’s activity. The concept of corporate social responsibility seems to be a natural direction when choosing a strategic method for any future activity – a choice which all modern companies, organisations and individuals are facing today.

CSR according to the UN

Another broad definition of corporate social responsibility is put forward within the idea of Global Compact. During the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1999, on the initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, ten rules were formulated. These rules pose a great challenge for the world of business as they encourage companies, organisations and individuals to embrace them and include in their daily activity. The rules refer to activities in four general areas:

Human rights - Supporting and respecting human rights, widely accepted by the international community. Eliminating all instances of companies violating human rights

Work standards - Respecting the right to form associations. Eliminating all forms of forced labour. Abolishing child labour. Counteracting employment discrimination in a successful way

Protection of the environment - Preventive approach to the environment. Taking initiatives in order to promote eco responsible attitudes. Using and spreading eco technologies

Fighting corruption - Fighting corruption in all its forms including extortion and bribery

What is the future of CSR?

The strength of the idea of corporate social responsibility lies in the way of running a business as well as a vision of its future. Some people say that the future belongs to CSR. Other people add that its efficiency depends on the value systems that the world will hold in high esteem in the 21st century. One reference point here could be The Athena Doctrine¸ a book by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio who argue that the so-called feminine values are gaining importance in many places around the world. Through their research, the authors of the book paint a picture of a world where the following values prevail:

  • Openness to other people
  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Reliability
  • Open-mindedness
  • Flexibility
  • Defencelessness
  • Balance

What this means in practical terms is that there is a need to create innovative events and processes in the future. CSR leaders should understand the progress that results from the expectations of consumers, shareholders, investors, local communities and other groups of stakeholders. The CSR of the future will be able to and ought to promote new management and leadership styles. Naturally, this does not mean a lack of polarisation – quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. Polarisation is needed wherever businesses, regions or cities meet. Diversity generates value as it takes into account the extremes that follow from the needs of individuals and social groups. There is room for 21st century CSR here too – an inclusive, smart and efficient management style which develops the value of business along with entire communities.

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