What Is Social Responsibility and Ethics? Types and Examples

Updated March 10, 2023

Volunteers erect a wooden frame structure.

From increased productivity to attracting top talent, there are numerous benefits to adding social responsibility initiatives within an organization. It also allows you to improve your organization's overall reputation, which can open doors for unlimited new opportunities. Choosing which initiative is most appropriate for your organization requires careful consideration, as the endeavor can become costly.

In this article, we discuss social responsibility, how social responsibility and ethics are closely connected and the advantages and disadvantages of social responsibility. We also cover a variety of examples of social responsibility that many companies are choosing to initiate.

Related: What Is Corporate Social Responsibility

Key takeaways:

  • Social responsibility refers to an individual or corporate accountability to fulfill their civic duty and take actions that will benefit society.

  • Socially responsible company managers make decisions that maximize profits and protect the interests of the community and society as a whole.

  • Providing time for employees to support their own social initiatives can also build pride, loyalty and motivation among team members.

What is social responsibility?

Social responsibility is an ethical framework in which individuals or corporations are accountable for fulfilling their civic duty and taking actions that benefit society. If a company or person considers taking actions that could harm the environment or society, those actions are considered socially irresponsible. According to this concept, managers must make decisions that maximize profits and protect the interests of the community and society as a whole.

Social responsibility and ethics

Ethics refers to a set of moral principles that govern a company's or person's behavior. Companies should incorporate ethics into their daily actions, particularly those decisions that affect other people or the environment. A code of social responsibility and ethical conduct should be applied within an organization and during interactions with others outside the company. As long as a company upholds strong ethical standards and maintains social responsibility, the environment and employees are held as equals to the focus on profitability. However, government interference is often necessary if the company ignores its ethical standards and takes socially irresponsible actions, such as disregarding environmental regulations to increase profitability.

Hand holds a representation of the earth with 8 circles surrounding it

Advantages of social responsibility

There are several advantages when a company chooses to be socially responsible, such as:

Gives a company a competitive edge

Most customers agree that social responsibility is a top criterion when choosing a company to shop with or do business with. Being a socially responsible company is a message you can use in your brand position and marketing.

Attracts strong candidates and increases retention

Your company's success is strongly impacted by the people who work for you. If you consistently provide a socially responsible culture for your employees and have a reputation for doing so, you can attract and retain top talent to your organization.

Related: Human Resources: Definition and How It Works

Makes your business attractive to investors

Investors generally believe that a commitment to social change is a great way to position a company for long-term success. While there must be a balancing act between focusing on the profitability of an organization and social initiatives, doing so successfully can create endless opportunities for companies.

Improves business culture

Your employees are likely to be more motivated and have a greater commitment to the organization if they see the social initiatives are in place. Providing time for employees to support their social initiatives can also build pride, loyalty and motivation among team members. This, in turn, makes everyone more engaged and productive.

Related: Tips To Demonstrate Work Ethic

Increases customer loyalty and advocacy

Consumers are drawn to companies with a reputation for being good corporate citizens. Moreover, customer advocacy is key to attracting new customers. As your loyal customers talk to people they know about your product and share positive reviews, they will drive more business your way.

Improves company reputation

If your organization is continually participating in social initiatives, it gives an impression to customers, investors and the world as a whole that your organization is financially viable. This, in turn, can attract new investors and investors alike.

Improves profitability and value

Companies often find that when they introduce more energy-efficient methods and begin recycling, they cut operational costs and benefit the environment. Social responsibility also increases transparency with investment analysts, shareholders and community members, improving the company's reputation and increasing the overall value.

Disadvantages of social responsibility

While corporate social responsibility is generally advantageous for organizations, there are a few drawbacks. Here are the primary disadvantages to consider:

Costs money to implement

While large organizations can afford to allocate a budget to corporate social responsibility reporting, this can be financially taxing on smaller organizations. While smaller companies can use social media to share any social responsibility policies or initiatives with customers and community members, monitoring these channels takes time and resources. It may require the company to hire extra employees to manage the process effectively, which can be challenging for small businesses.

Impacts profitability

A company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders and costly social responsibility initiatives can impact this directly. This conflict can be challenging for managers, who may feel compelled to choose between socially responsible decisions or initiatives and focusing on the company's profitability.


In some cases, social responsibility initiatives have been used to improve a company's image even though no real change has been made. For this reason, it's important to consider what social responsibility initiatives you will take and evaluate the impact they will have on the organization.

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Examples of social responsibility in corporations

Here are a few examples of corporate social responsibility initiatives that companies have taken:

  • Charitable giving and volunteer efforts: Companies give employees time off for volunteering every year and donate portions of revenue to a charitable organization.

  • Changes to company policies to improve or benefit the environment: Companies are holding tree-planting events, minimizing paper waste, switching to energy-saving bulbs, setting up recycling bins and allowing remote work to reduce the negative impact of commuter traffic.

  • Improving labor policies and embracing fair trade: Brands are striving to improve working conditions and the well-being of employees. They are giving parents significant periods of paid leave, unlimited vacation time, more natural lighting, soft seating and plants to boost energy and morale.

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