What do you really know about CSR?
Many businesses are becoming more aware of their impact on society and the environment. As a result, they are implementing CSR policies to identify and control this impact. Let’s go back to the varied facts, and the legal or business requirements behind this acronym.
The many faces of CSR
A business committed to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) can incorporate this approach in many fields.
In terms of respecting the environment, it involves supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy by promoting responsible consumption habits, limiting the carbon footprint, and even developing green energy. It also promotes changing consumption patterns, improving product traceability, and treating waste appropriately. Lastly, it enables businesses to actively support biodiversity, particularly in areas where its offices are located.
CSR involves not only environmental, but also social challenges. Businesses can implement measures to promote diversity, non-discrimination, and respect for human rights. CSR departments can also support decent and safe working conditions, and promote local employment. Lastly, CSR can be applied to business-oriented fields by promoting ethics and transparency in business, respect for the customer, sustainable purchasing, and the choice of suppliers that fulfill the same ethical obligations.
A matter not just of ethics, but also of regulations and business
An increasing number of businesses are becoming aware of the impact their activities have. However, while developing a CSR approach reflects a real ethical concern, it also responds to regulatory issues. The French NRE (New Economic Regulations) Act of 2001, for example, requires listed companies to publish information in their management reports regarding the social and environmental consequences of their activities. The Grenelle II Law of 2010 makes this non-financial reporting mandatory for more businesses and adds a societal aspect to the process.
CSR is a global concern: a number of international principles have been established, including the guiding principles of the United Nations, the OECD and the European Commission. These recommendations are sent by governments to multinational companies in order to promote rational business conduct. The ISO 26 000 standard, the international standard for social responsibility, provides businesses and organizations with guidelines on how to operate in a socially responsible manner.
Lastly, CSR policies respond to a business challenge. The past decade has seen the dawn of ‘responsible consumers’, who base their purchasing choices not only on the product’s performance, but also on its ecological and social impact. Developing a CSR policy can therefore enable a business to respond to this demand for transparency, and reinforce its brand image and that of its products. And let’s not forget that CSR is now viewed as a performance factor.
How do businesses take concrete action?
To be effective, a CSR approach must be adopted and understood by all employees and pushed by the Board. The management must commit, in conjunction with the stakeholders, to integrate social, environmental or ethical concerns into the business’s commercial activities and its strategy. The main CSR guidelines are then distributed to all employees, and may be included in department-specific charters, non-financial reporting charters and partnership charters on the ground with social partners.
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