What is CSR in Business & Why Does it Matter to Employees?

by Yvonne Harris

Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR can be understood as the degree of responsibility a corporation has for the consequences of their actions economically, socially, and environmentally. CSR matters to employees as it empowers them to leverage corporate resources to do good for the world. For employees, it can boost their morale and lead to greater productivity and retention.

What is corporate social responsibility? What does CSR stand for?

CSR is understood globally as a corporation’s responsibility for its business activities’ economic, environmental, and social implications. This can sometimes be referred to as a triple bottom line. This approach not only considers profit like traditional business models; it also includes people and the planet.

CSR is a self-regulating business model that helps an organization be a socially responsible company and accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.

Many terms are used interchangeably with corporate social responsibility. CSR initiatives could be named corporate accountability, corporate citizenship, or sustainability initiatives.

What is CSR in business?

CSR will vary depending on the industry the organization operates in. It could focus on culture, environmental conditions, labor markets, and legal frameworks. The end goal will always be the same: do well by doing good.

Organizations that embrace CSR in business aim to always be profitable while focusing on achieving a larger purpose. The business’s impact on addressing social and environmental issues is just as important as economic profitability.

Why is CSR important for businesses?

Corporate Social Responsibility plays a critical role in an organization’s perception. This includes its attractiveness to potential and current employees, investors, and customers. More employees are looking for workplaces that care about the world and want to make a positive impact through their work. In today’s world, stakeholders judge an organization’s impact on the world. This is where CSR in business can positively affect a brand’s image.

Environmental responsibility

What are the 3 pillars of CSR?

The three pillars of Corporate Social Responsibility are economic, social, and environmental. Or the three P’s; profit, people, and the planet. A responsible organization must collaborate on strategies focused on all three areas. Action plans and reporting need to be completed for all three as well. These pillars may seem separate, but they are interlinked. The goal of a responsible organization is to create economic sustainability through a socially responsible business model and method.

Let’s delve deeper into the three pillars:

Environmental Responsibility:

This pillar focuses on preserving and protecting the environment and natural surroundings. This could include improving operations not to pollute or harm the natural environment. Supporting causes that protect the environment. Ensuring natural resources are not damaged and are left better than before operations started. Environmental, social governance and stewardship are possible through:

  • The reduction in pollution, natural resource consumption, emissions, and reduced waste management.
  • Through the recycling of goods and materials during its processes. This can include promoting reusing or recycling practices with its customers and throughout its supply chain.
  • Offsetting any negative and harmful impacts. This can be achieved through the replenishment of natural resources and supporting initiatives that neutralize the company’s impact. E.g. carbon sequestration projects such as tree planting.
  • The distribution of goods and supply chain practices that have minimal or lesser emissions and pollution.
  • Producing products that align with these values. E.g. creating product or service innovation that promotes environmental social governance.

Social Responsibility:

Often referred to as the ethical or people pillar. This is rooted in the organization acting fairly and ethically. Often, the social pillar is about the company complying with legislation regarding human rights, working conditions, and issues relating to discrimination. Internally, it looks at creating a positive working environment, diversity, inclusion, professional development, and safety. This pillar also looks at the community or external stakeholders the company has indirect contact with. This relationship is not a business endeavor; it, however, takes into account the general well-being of the stakeholders. Social responsibility often looks like:

  • Fair treatment of customers across all demographics
  • Employees were treated positively with fair pay and benefits over the mandated minimums.
  • Usage of varying vendors that cover a diverse subset of the population.
  • Do not harm external stakeholders; listen to their concerns and respond respectfully.

Economic Responsibility:

The finance or profit pillar in CSR is key to ensuring other pillars can operate. It is not solely about making a profit, it focuses on business sustainability and resilience. This ensures that the organization has solid foundations and can survive the challenges and adversity. Economic responsibility also includes supporting the local economy. Economic responsibility often refers to:

  • Research and development for new sustainable products.
  • Creating a diverse workforce through recruiting.
  • Implementing processes that may be more expensive but yield greater CSR benefits and results.
  • Transparent financial reporting and external audits.

Balancing the three different pillars of CSR is all about finding the perfect equilibrium. Corporate social responsibility benefits companies that try to make a positive or neutral impact on the world while maintaining their economic activity.

CTA - Powell Software Sustainability Corner

Who is responsible for CSR in business?

Often, larger corporations adopt CSR. This is because the more successful and visible a corporation becomes, the more responsibility it has to set the standards of business ethics as a socially responsible business. This includes its peers, competitors, and the entire industry that it is a part of.

Depending on the structure of the organization, there may be a director or manager of corporate social responsibility. Often this position is named the sustainability manager. In some organizations, the CSR role may come under the Human Resources or Marketing department. However, the entire company is responsible for implementing corporate social responsibility practices.

Why do employees care about CSR initiatives?

Companies benefit more from corporate social responsibility when employees are included in decision-making. Employees trust top management, have pride in their organization, experience increased job satisfaction, and have an improved perception of job performance.

Employees who experience genuine corporate social responsibility initiatives feel they work for an organization that is compatible with their values and shares their goals. This is called a person-organization fit.

However, positive employee behaviors are only beneficial when the CSR initiatives are perceived as genuine. Employees will react negatively if an initiative is not authentic.

To encourage commitment, it is essential to be transparent in every CSR initiative.

How can you encourage employees’ commitment?

Empower employees to choose their own CSR journey

Employees feel empowered when their opinions are valued and have an influence over the business decision. A survey is a simple way to determine what employees want the company to focus on and what they feel is important. You can post questions and polls on your intranet.

Skill development

Offer CSR initiatives that include the employee learning a new skill. This provides the employee with a learning opportunity at the same time as making a positive impact. This could be as simple as hosting an internal event and appointing someone who wants to learn about event management.

Improve the working environment

Employees spend a lot of their day at work. Creating a CSR initiative that improves their working environment will most likely engage them. If you want to encourage cycling to work, then creating a locker room, bike racks, and showers will encourage this positive behavior.

Promote your CSR activities

It can be a great press opportunity to speak about your CSR initiatives. It shows your shareholders, customers, and employees that you care about the world and want to make a difference. This will, in turn,, make employees proud of where they work and more likely to be engaged. Internally promoting the activities via your intranet or internal communications is key.

How can you communicate CSR initiatives internally?

A CSR internal communications strategy is designed to communicate your achievements, goals, and initiatives related to CSR. For internal teams, a successful strategy encourages employees to ‘get on board’ and participate.

Involve employees

Ask your teams for feedback to funnel your CSR strategy in the right direction. Questions can include:

  • Do you believe the initiatives are substantial enough?
  • Do you think the goals are attainable?
  • Do you feel involved in the CSR efforts? How could you be more involved?

Make CSR regular

Ensure that your employees live and breathe CSR at work and that it is a constant presence in the workplace. Simple ways to implement this would be to create an internal communications campaign on your intranet, have guest speakers visit the workplace, include statistics and reminders in high-traffic areas, and include CSR updates in every team meeting.

Create CSR reports

Provide evidence to support your CSR initiatives. Be transparent about whether the organization achieved the goal and, if not, what you are improving to ensure they do. Follow through on your commitments and close any gaps between your goals and their achievement.


If you’re only beginning your CSR journey, it’s best to start small. Focus on one pillar and build your strategy from there. Perhaps sustainability will be number one on your employees needs. If it is, Powell Software can help you promote sustainability in the workplace through our Sustainability Corner,carpooling tool and second hand swap shop.

CTA - Powell Software Sustainability Corner


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