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Definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR)

This article aims to explore some of the definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR). It also aims to explore the importance of CSR for businesses. Certainly, there has been extensive research in the field of corporate social responsibility. Consequently, a wide variety of definitions have been developed. However, there is little consensus among researchers as to what corporate social responsibility is as the conflicting expectations of different stakeholders have impacted on the ideas and concepts of CSR.

Definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Howard Bowen, often regarded as the father of CSR, has defined corporate social responsibility as the obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies, to make those decisions, or to follow those lines of action which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society (Bowen, 1953). Bowen is one of the earliest writers to have defined CSR.

‘Corporate social responsibility is concerned with the ways in which an organisation exceeds the minimum obligations to stakeholders specified through regulation and corporate governance’ (Johnson, 2005, p. 191)

Some people think CSR is simply a company’s policy, while to some others, it is about voluntarily going beyond the legal requirements to be socially responsible. CSR helps companies to be accountable to its stakeholders. It also helps them to be conscious of the impacts they have on all aspects of society. It is worth noting that the focus of CSR is not on big organisations only, rather on organisations of all sizes.

Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Todays’ society asks companies to do more than just simply making profits. People expect them to contribute to the social development and trade fairly. By taking some CSR initiatives, a company can boost its image in the market and diminish any negative consumer perception.

A company’s CSR initiatives can work as a competitive advantage as evidenced by some researches. For instance, a study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute in London in 2015, found that organisations that had a genuine commitment to CSR substantially outperformed those that did not.

The CSR perception of many big companies has changed enormously over the years. They now see many benefits e.g. employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and a better customer service standard as a result of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. According to O’Keefe (2017), today’s many best companies do no longer see CSR as an obligation that they they need to take on, rather has made it central to their operations.

Many of today’s consumers are very aware of the impacts of corporate operations on society. They connect well with those companies that are socially responsible and are often willing to pay more for their products and services. Consequently, corporate social responsibility initiatives help companies build good relationships with customers resulting in more profits and more customer loyalty.

Employee satisfaction is a very important factor that impacts of the productivity of a company. Surely, employees are likely to work harder if they feel appreciated and valued by their employers. This helps companies avoid the costs of new recruitment and training (BBC, 2019).

Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate social responsibility comes in many forms e.g. giving donations, improving labour policies, supporting local communities, hiring veterans and socially disadvantaged people, offering free education and training for employees, and many more. Johnson & Johnson, Google, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, Wells Fargo and GE, are some of the companies very well known for their corporate social responsibility initiatives (O’Brien, 2019).

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Last update: 07 September 2019


BBC (2019) Social responsibility of employers, available at: (accessed 03 September 2019)

Johnson, G., Scholes, k., & Whittington, R. (2005) Exploring Strategy: Text and Cases, 7th edition, Prentice Hall

O’Brien, C.,  (2019) 16 brands doing corporate social responsibility successfully, available at: (accessed 01 September 2019)

O’Keefe, L. (2017), Doing Good Is Good for Business — Corporate Social Responsibility in 2015, (accessed 03 September 2019)

Author: Joe David

Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.

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