In the introduction of the CSR training that I’m involved in with the CSR gender group I start out with asking the participants which definition of CSR they subscribe to. The answers normally vary a great deal depending on the audience but for the majority people would like to be told what and how CSR is to be formulated. These are the four definitions we present:
“The Social Responsibility refers to 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.”
“The Social Responsibility of business is to tame the dragon, that is, to turn a social problem into economic, opportunities and economic benefit, into productive capacity, into human competence, into well-paid jobs, and into wealth.”
“Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.”
“Responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society; takes into account the expectations of stakeholders; is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour; and is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships.”
However, I believe that is a misunderstanding to tell people what definition they should subscribe to. Rather it should be negotiated between the organisation and its key stakeholders on a continues basis. CSR is not a management system and will never become such a system simply because it is based on the principle that “Any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s purpose and objectives”(Freeman, 1984) have a stake in how the organization develop.
What organizations can do is to become effective in their efforts to identify, categories and negotiate with the stakeholder on what activities that it should engage in. Such a framework can be found using a integrated marketing (IMC) approach enabling organizations to communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders and at the same time indentifying less salient groups which might have a interest or is affected by the organizations activities.
IMC can be described as a process which involves the management and organization of all stakeholders in the analysis, planning, implementation and control of all marketing communication contacts, media, messages and promotional tools focused at selected target audiences in such a way as to derive the greatest enhancement and coherence of marketing communication effort in achieving predetermined product and marketing communication objectives.
An IMC approach will in my mind be the most effective framework a given organization can adopt if it wants to be regarded as social responsible player and keep some influence in relation to its identity, culture and image.