Corporate Philanthropy Vs. CSR

Speak the words “Corporate Social Responsibility” and more often than not the perception of what is CSR is related to the philanthropic and volunteer initiatives of the firm.   With some still only focused on philanthropy alone (particularly in China).

It is a stereotype that I see reinforced time and time again by organizations as their CSR managers are asked only to manage those activities as their base.  Ask a CSR manager if they are reaching into the core of the organization, and the vast majority will say “not yet”.  That it is a learning process.  A process that begins with successful philanthropy programs

Because that is what people understand.

However, for the firms that have moved past philanthropy and engagement programs alone, what we are seeing is that as the firms mature (in business model) many of the concepts that we would define as “CSR” are finding a home within the different functions of the organization because the value of “beyond business as usual” is beginning to prove itself valuable.

A topic the recent article Philanthropy, CSR and the Social Responsibility of Business addresses by listing out three types of CSR they are seeing these days:

1. Ethical CSR: Morally mandatory fulfillment of a firm’s economic responsibilities, legal responsibilities, and ethical responsibilities.

2. Altruistic CSR: Fulfillment of an organization’s philanthropic responsibilities, going beyond preventing possible harms (ethical CSR) to helping alleviate public welfare deficiencies, regardless of whether or not this will benefit the business itself.

3. Strategic CSR: Caring corporate community service activities that accomplish strategic business goals.

Each interesting in how they are framed, but in emerging economies I would add a couple additional levels:

1. Networked/ Branded CSR – Along the lines of astroturfing, this level of CSR is superficial by design. It involves a check, a government official, the CEO, and the media with the purpose to create the illusion of a company who cares for its community. when its community is little more than government officials and customers.

2. CSR to the Core -Taking Strategic CSR one step further, this level is different in that the business is built on fundamental principals where the business is done better. It’s products are better, it’s processes are cleaner, it’s employees are treated at a higher level, and it’s profitable

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