What Is the Social Responsibility for a Business?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published February 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For many businesses, the definition of success is to be profitable and prosperous. While things like increasing your stakeholder's value and making a lot of money are an important part of running a successful business, there is much more to it. Companies that want to do good in the world also value things like helping their communities, treating their employees fairly and saving the environment. In this article, we explain the responsibility for a business in a social context and explore different types of business responsibility.

Related: Implementing a CSR Strategy: A Definitive Guide

What is business responsibility?

Business responsibility, commonly referred to as social responsibility or corporate social responsibility, is when businesses operate in a way that benefits society rather than just stakeholders. In addition to trying to be a profitable company, following social responsibility means that your employer is actively doing things to make the world a better place. For instance, donating a portion of your profits to a charity or creating sustainable business practices are all a part of being a socially responsible business.

Businesses that practice this idea try to find ways to maximize their shareholders' value while simultaneously following policies that promote better social welfare. The idea of this theory is that businesses have the responsibility to benefit society as they work to be profitable. If a business wants to be ethical, it needs to integrate socially responsible practices into its business model.

Related: 12 Examples of Business Ethics and Why They're Important

Why is business responsibility important?

Following the corporate social responsibility model is important for the following reasons:

  • Beneficial to society: The biggest benefit of corporate social responsibility is that society and the environment can benefit from it. Rather than solely focusing on profits, businesses can also implement much more ethical and sustainable practices.

  • Boost to employee morale: Employees tend to favor working for companies that have values that align with their own. When a company is willing to give back, employees may feel more loyal and motivated. Likewise, ethical employers treat their employees well, which can boost employee morale and lower turnover rates.

  • Potential to improve profits: If consumers have the choice between two similar companies but one is more ethical, they are going to be likely to support the ethical one. By making your values and efforts known, you can attract more customers and boost your profits.

Related: Complete Guide to Ethical Leadership (with Examples)

Types of business responsibility

There are many ways businesses can be socially responsible and ethical. Here are the major categories of business responsibility:

Volunteerism

When companies become a part of local or national causes, they can accomplish a lot of good for others. Companies that support volunteerism find all kinds of ways to donate time to organizations. For instance, some socially responsible employers give their employees paid time to volunteer. Likewise, some companies organize volunteer events or outings during their business hours. Many companies choose causes that align with their values and goals.

Related: 7 Reasons to Consider Volunteering

Philanthropy

Rather than saving all of their profits for themselves and their shareholders, socially responsible businesses may donate a portion of their proceeds to a charity. Another way employers can give back is by donating their products and services to those in need. For example, various companies have taken on the one-for-one model. This means that for every item they sell, they will give away an item of equal value to someone in need. You may have seen this with shoe, eyeglass and sock companies.

Ethical treatment

A major part of a business being socially responsible is treating its employees well. This means providing safe working conditions, fair compensation and meaningful career opportunities. Since labor laws differ across the world, companies with international locations need to be especially mindful of enforcing ethical business practices, even if the law doesn't require them to.

Environmentalism

Things like manufacturing can cause quite a bit of harm to the environment. Socially responsible businesses are mindful of this and implement ways to reduce or entirely eliminate their carbon footprint. Some companies even take initiatives to give back to the environment rather than reaping it of its resources. For instance, if a company uses a lot of wood and paper products, it may begin a program to plant more trees to offset what it has used.

Related: 10 Sustainability Careers That Make a Difference

Tips for improving your business responsibility efforts

If your employer is ever looking to become more socially responsible, consider suggesting these ideas:

Take time to learn

Rather than throwing their money at an issue, your employer needs to do extensive research when deciding what organizations or causes to support. They might want to support a cause that aligns with their business's values or purposes. For instance, a company that celebrates diversity and equity may want to donate to charities that support people of color. Likewise, if your company sells goods that you would use in nature, you may want to focus your efforts on environmental causes.

Be authentic in your efforts

Truly ethical business owners want to do good in the world for the sake of society's well-being. Instead of doing good deeds to make more money or impress customers, business leaders need to be authentic about the work they are doing. Focusing on causes that truly mean a lot to you can help you keep the longevity of social good going. By making a commitment to social good, your employer can continue to be profitable while also changing the world for the better.

Encourage and reward participation

If an employer wants their socially responsible initiatives to flourish, then they need to get everyone involved. By finding ways to encourage and reward participation, they can get more employees committed to their cause. One way to do this is by offering volunteer days in lieu of coming to the office. Likewise, employers could reward employees who give back to their communities with praise or special treats.

Make your efforts known

Rather than hiding their efforts in the employee handbook, employers can make them known to the public. This is an excellent way to build their public relations, which can actually lead to more profits for the company. Since many people like to support companies that have causes they believe in, this is actually a great marketing tactic when done tastefully. Likewise, it is a great way to attract new talent to their workforce since some people look for a job with values that align with their own.

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