The World Business Council for Sustainable Development in its publication "Making Good Business Sense" by Lord Holme and Richard Watts, used the following definition. "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large"
The same report gave some evidence of the different perceptions of what this should mean from a number of different societies across the world. Definitions as different as "CSR is about capacity building for sustainable livelihoods. It respects cultural differences and finds the business opportunities in building the skills of employees, the community and the government" from Ghana, through to "CSR is about business giving back to society" from the Phillipines.
Traditionally in the United States, CSR has been defined much more in terms of a philanphropic model. Companies make profits, unhindered except by fulfilling their duty to pay taxes. Then they donate a certain share of the profits to charitable causes. It is seen as tainting the act for the company to receive any benefit from the giving.
The European model is much more focused on operating the core business in a socially responsible way, complemented by investment in communities for solid business case reasons. Personally, I believe this model is more sustainable because:
1. Social responsibility becomes an integral part of the wealth creation process - which if managed properly should enhance the competitiveness of business and maximise the value of wealth creation to society.
2. When times get hard, there is the incentive to practice CSR more and better - if it is a philanphropic exercise which is peripheral to the main business, it will always be the first thing to go when push comes to shove.
But as with any process based on the collective activities of...