CSR as a tool for building competitive advantage

CSR is a component of a well-thought-out strategy of the company, with the point being to increase the company's value and obtain a sustainable competitive advantage in the market.



What is CSR?

CSR is a business's ethical, economic, legal and philanthropic commitment towards its stakeholders. Altogether it is supposed to guarantee the sincerity of intentions expressed directly in the strategic document. It is commonly known as the CSR strategy, which is comprehensive and consistent with the business vision management model, and the purpose of which is, among others: defining and assessing business impacts, managing relations with stakeholders, planning goals in the long and short term, organizing people, shaping opinions and controlling assumptions made in strategic plans. The CSR strategy is also, or perhaps first of all, a set of specific values ​​ that covers the entire organization and is directly reflected in all business processes and projects.

Together with a whole range of intangible assets, apart from strictly financial factors, CSR cements the market value of any business.

Balance sheet assets are nothing more than fixed and current assets, while intangible assets are all the rest, with the best examples being responsible management, leadership ethics, motivation, and managerial attitudes, protection of resources and climate, care for employees, ethical marketing communication, relations with stakeholders, employee qualifications, reputation, and image.

CSR is the genetic code of business.

Americans say "you can't cheat your genes", that's why CSR is not the same as ESG. CSR is about something more. It’s a combination of genes that opens up space for competitiveness consistent with business values. In the long term, it also allows you to generate new opportunities for growth.

CSR as a model for modern business

CSR is the answer to the consumer of the new era. It’s designed for a consumer who is looking for truth, authenticity, and courage, who values ​​independence, and who is perfectly informed about relevant issues. Managers know this, but their knowledge stays at the declaration level (with some exceptions). Practically, however, a scenario-based way of thinking, taking into account real influences, needs, and expectations of both consumers and other stakeholders, is an obvious problem. How to solve it? It's easy. Include the stakeholder's point of view in every decision, process, or business project.

CSR is a business model run by managerial behaviors and particular attitudes. The skills of leaders build value if and only if they are integrated with the vision of CSR management.

CSR is not a scam and a nice touch without any deep meaning, but a real functor of business values ​​that is combined in the management process. Future value is therefore expressed in CSR principles and guidelines. Those are precisely described by the international management standard ISO 26000. What is important, it is not used for certification but helps in the diagnosis of CSR state. An analysis of the effectiveness of socially responsible activities, using the ISO 2600 standard is a reference point containing guidelines to create a unique CSR Strategy, and it might be seen as a very good solution for business. At this point, it is worth recalling its most important principles, which include accountability, transparency, ethical conduct, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for the law, respect for international standards of conduct, and respect for human rights.

The ISO 26000 standard also specifies in detail the CSR guidelines, which include: organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, social involvement, and local community development.

From my experience, achieving mastery in CSR activities requires the integration of both CSR principles and guidelines into the company's business model, recognized as the leading one. Otherwise, it's just a facade or, if you prefer, a car with some beautifully fixed dents.

CSR as a sign of quality

The quality of CSR is manifested in the readiness of businesses to take into account social and environmental issues while making business decisions, processes, projects, and initiatives. Moreover, it means reporting and communicating the company’s impact of strategic tactical, and operational decisions. Quality (gr. poiotes) is, as Plato used to say, "a certain degree of perfection", obtained as a result of conscious management with CSR objectives in mind, defined in the CSR strategy. On the basis of CSR, three features can be distinguished:

1. Excellence in CSR - allows you to distinguish a facade CSR from a strategic one. It is achieved by professionalizing standards and business processes. In practice, it is integrated with the "business fabric" and permanently rooted in it,

2. The potential of being used - strongly related to the measurability of social responsibility activities and initiatives. It is achieved through precise assessments, monitoring, communication, updating, timeliness and adequacy of activities in relation to stakeholder expectations.

3. CSR adequacy - allows you to determine the compliance of the actions taken with the requirements of the law, industry codes, and good business practices.

The quality of corporate social responsibility should be related to understanding the expectations of stakeholders from a broad perspective - that is within the framework of the law but far beyond its provisions. Quality is nuances, without which the adjective responsible becomes nothing more than an empty shell. The quality of CSR to the commitment to support. The quality of CSR is equivalent to the attitudes and competencies of the management staff. CSR quality is also deeply rooted in the concept of risk management. However we call it - without quality, there is no social responsibility.

CSR is deeply connected with the core of the business

Integral CSR should be understood as CSR combined with a business strategy. That's the whole definition of what it is. Integral means reflected in business decisions, so think about whether the latest modernization of your production plant took into account the interests of employees, the needs of local residents, the comments of non-governmental organizations, or, for example, the concern of ecologists about the monument of nature bordering that your company happens to have just behind the fence? Also, it’s a matter of deciding where is the line between a decision and its consequences for others? Sometimes behind just one signature of the President, is a multi-layered impact for many people. One signature can influence the entire supply chain. After all, someone has to bring the concrete, someone has to deliver the screws, someone has to do the arduous work of assembling packages, someone, someone, someone ... There are a whole lot of "someones" along the way, which translates into tons of diesel fuel, jams cities, or several tons of CO2. When signing the contract, dear President, think about what all this CSR integrity is to you in real life.

CSR as a form of escaping hopelessness

What is modern business afraid of? Extinction of species, rising sea levels, melting of glaciers, drying of the soil, heat islands and concrete disease in cities, accidents at work, mobbing, discrimination, cyber threats, and fear of the influence of artificial intelligence… those are just some of the topics that post-pandemic business often turns away from. In return, some companies offer the illusion of responsibility expressed in beautiful slogans, with a whole lot of adjectives.

We want CSR, but without the costs. We crave CSR but forget the necessary effort of real changes. We love CSR, but only the one embedded in a bubble of simple solutions. We want to build lasting value, but what matters most is awards, splendor, and a 500-gram statuette on the windowsill of the management office.

After all, CSR is our world and our life. Both business and non-business. After all, its range extends beyond 9-5 five days a week. Isn’t it?


Łukasz Smolarek


Łukasz Smolarek

I help my clients to face the challenges of the changing world and also discover the potential of holistic view on human needs as well as our planet’s possibilities.

Łukasz Smolarek
Responsible business strategist and values ​​leadership mentor
Together we can more
Łukasz Smolarek

Contact me and let’s discuss the details

If you think about CSR strategy, courses, responsible selling, ESG analysis, audit of your suppliers, dialogue with stakeholders, code of ethics, CSR report or you want me to be part of your conference, call me or write me an email.

+48 514 150 412 write to me – biuro@whiteleaf.pl

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