How businesses understand CSR
A recent international survey showed that businesses perceive CSR in a different way. The gap of the stages of understanding is wide and can be distinguished in the following levels:
1. At the first level, companies consider that CSR is to provide work and create new jobs. For them being ethical means respect to the local legislation. Of course, in this case we cannot say that because these companies respect the law are also socially responsible.
2. At a higher level, CSR is linked to charity. Here companies create a foundation through which they promote their sponsorships and donations.
3. The third level includes companies which say that they “are not doing harm”. They don’t pollute the environment, they do not consume renewable sources, they don’t produce harmful products
4. For some companies the next level means positive involvement in social and environmental issues, as part of their internal dynamics. For example they include in their strategies a system of environmental management or employ people with disabilities.
5. The fifth level is that of the global impact. Here companies accept that they have responsibility anywhere they operate. This includes companies that perform social audits in their supply chain.
6. Finally, we have the level of “integrated mission and responsibility”. Here we have innovative companies that have been created in collaboration with NGOs or other social organizations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada etc. for the production of products or services which take under consideration CSR principles in all their stages.
How businesses implement CSR
Reflecting the above different perceptions, businesses implement CSR activities in different ways. These can be grouped as follows:
1. Many companies don’t go beyond the first level. They simply draw up a code of conduct or a guide on good behavior in which they express a series of intentions and advice regarding the society and the environment.
2. In the second level we have businesses which are keen in starting a specific program that responds to the demands of CSR. For example, the adoption of an environmental management system or the discussion with a supplier regarding the working conditions of his employees mainly if he operates in a country of the third world. At this level the company acts independently, without collaborating with any other organization. The company sets the aims, undertakes the activities, makes the audits. The activities can be tangential or directly relevant to its basic operations.
3. At this level we have companies that decide to have a CSR assessment system. This diagnostic tool can be unique for the company or can be one of the recognized standards. Examples are the EMAS and the ISO 14001 for the environment or the SA 8000 for Human Resources. When an external diagnostic standard is used the assessment can be done internally or by an external advisor.
4. The fourth level is the one according to which CSR is embedded in a specific management system. This approach is mainly related to environmental issues. This means that in the process of decision making their environmental aspect is taken into account.
5. The last level includes companies that proceed to a dialogue with their stakeholders regarding the aims of their CSR programs, the stages of implementation, the quality of audits, the possibilities of wider communication etc. and end up with activities through which there will be benefit for both parties.(company and stakeholders).