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Some corporate social responsibility has ‘gone stale’



On April 15, an event in London will question whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) has reached its sell-by date.

Hosted and produced by Responsible 100, Be Inspired Films and Kyocera Document Solutions, the interactive panel discussion forms part of Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week 2013.

After hearing the thoughts of Kyocera’s Tracey Rawling Church earlier this week, Blue & Green Tomorrow posed the same set of questions to Tim West, director of Matter&Co – a marketing and PR firm with a firm eye on social impact.

What does ‘corporate social responsibility’ mean to you?

At its best: big business putting social, environmental and economic issues at the heart of their strategy. At its worst: finding some charitable activity to paint over the mess caused by corporate greed. Most often: businesses inventing cosmetic exercises to look good and make their staff feel good.

Can you explain the difference, if any, between responsible business and corporate social responsibility?

The first is something all businesses should think about and act upon when they consider their vision and values. The second is an artificial construct that allows businesses to do socially responsible projects but excuse themselves from being truly socially responsible organisations.

How widespread/mainstream is corporate social responsibility, in the sense you describe, and do you have any best-in-class examples?

I guess it depends whether you think CSR is a faith or a disease. But I think Deloitte are doing some excellent work with their Social Innovation Pioneers programme – involving their partners, clients and supply chains in helping social enterprises to grow.

Without stealing the event’s thunder, has corporate social responsibility passed its sell-by date? And in another sentence, why do you say that?

I think some CSR has certainly gone stale – but there are fresh examples and opportunities. The focus on transparency, greed and the financial crisis has brought home the fact that values matter.

What will corporate social responsibility look like in 10 years from now?

I hope very different.

See here for more information on the CSR event.

Further reading:

‘Corporate social responsibility is an attitude of mind’

Tool launched to identify and support businesses pursuing sustainability

Merging the great business dilemma: profit v sustainability, responsibility and ethics

Taking steps towards a new ethical age of business

Responsible investment terms: what is CSR?