There are various definitions aiming to explain what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) signifies. Because of the many ways in which this concept is interpreted by the millions of companies around this country, and the world, there is no consensus as to what CSR could truly mean. In other words, definitions vary depending upon the field examined, and the impact of a business' actions. Yet CSR is of vital importance to the world, because it provides both for a measurement of services provided by a company, and also measures the impact of these various actions upon the population served. For this reason, some say that CSR is an indicator of the quality of management of a company.[footnoteRef:1] Others yet, for the same reason, claim that CSR measures the nature and quantity of companies' impact on society.[footnoteRef:2] [1: Baker, M. (2004). Corporate Social Responsibility. MallenBaker.net. Retrieved January 27, from . ] [2: Baker, p1. ]
This paper aims to further discuss such definitions, and establish an all-encompassing definition for CSR while also analyzing how businesses could contribute to educate others about CSR, as well as create value with customers in order to improve relationships and keep profits at a reasonable margin while also helping the community.
The two definitions presented above focused on CSR as an indicator of a company's management style or its impact upon the society that it serves. Yet there are many individuals who do not agree with such broad definitions of CSR. In fact, some claim that CSR is all about sustainable development. These persons advise that the concept should imply "a continuing commitment by business[es] to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and […] families as well as of the local community and society at large."[footnoteRef:3] Furthermore, as these individuals add, CSR should focus on "capacity building for sustainable livelihoods [while respecting] cultural differences and [finding] business opportunities in building […] skills of employees, the community and the government."[footnoteRef:4] [3: Baker, p1.] [4: Baker, p1.]
Essentially, what all these definitions state, despite being focused or all-encompassing, is that CSR must, above all else, mean that a company manages its business processes with an outlook to producing a positive impact on society overall. This, then, is the working CSR definition for this paper, and is agreed upon by various experts.[footnoteRef:5] In fact, when one looks at a company, for investment or simply working partnership purposes, one will inevitably look to what the company has done both internally and externally and measure these two components against the company to assess overall worth. As Baker (2004) states, [5: Baker, p1. ]
"Outside stakeholders are taking an increasing interest in the activity of the company. Most look to the outer circle - what the company has actually done, good or bad, in terms of its products and services, in terms of its impact on the environment and on local communities, or in how it treats and develops its workforce. Out of the various stakeholders, it is financial analysts who are predominantly focused - as well as past financial performance - on quality of management as an indicator of likely future performance."
According to Baker it is in this latter aspect that the company's true performance, in accordance to its CSR guidelines, is evaluated and leaves the most felt imprint with a potential investor and, for this reason, the company must be quite ethical which, once again, stresses the importance of following CSR guidelines.
Another reason why CSR is ever important to companies, especially in today's environment, is because of the internet and the incredible ability of information to spread quickly, whether positive or negative. Plenty of companies have plummeted in customer's eyes due to unwanted commentary leaked online, later picked up by the media. For this reason, then, CSR becomes very important. A company must, in other words, above all else, show its positive impact on society so that if the moment ever comes when a company's actions are questioned, its leaders can prove the positive impact of previous actions and legitimize any further decisions.[footnoteRef:6] Whether companies like it or not, actions impact customers, and often times it is the customers who make or break the company's metaphorical bank. [6: Noer, M. (2008). Corporate Social Responsibility. Forbes Magazine Online. Retrieved January 27, from . ]
For this reason, and many others, companies must create value for their customers, especially through a positive image. This latter aspect is just one of the many ways in which companies can create this value. According to those in the field, "value creation, the central focus of managerial activity, is undergoing rapid change."[footnoteRef:7] This fact stems from the fact that companies no longer have distinct, traditional roles. In fact, the article quoted above makes it a point that companies offer certain products today that hold various different values, and that require a fluidity, almost a flexibility from management, especially when speaking about exchanging value with customers.[footnoteRef:8] [7: Prahalad, C.K. & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). Co-creating Value with Your Customers. Information Week Online. Retrieved January 27, from . ] [8: Prahalad & Ramaswamy, p1. ]
The various strategies for co-creating value include getting personal, for the many reasons mentioned above, including the fact that things are changing, and information spread much faster than before. Another strategy is to create support networks and support customization. For instance, there are three other main points made by those familiar with the changing tides of various industries, who state that there are various shifts, in that which regards consumers, which include,
"1. Companies are shifting from selling products to selling services, […]
2. Companies are shifting from having transactional relationships with consumers (one-time or isolated interactions) to having service relationships with them (a series of ongoing interactions), and […]
3. Companies are finding their business-to-business and business-to-consumer models merging together."[footnoteRef:9] [9: Walker, S. (2011). Co-Creating Value With Customers. Digital Book World. Retrieved January 27, from . ]
These shifts are important not only because they strive to improve the customer experience, but also because they show just how one can improve CSR policies, as well as how a companies can formulate strategies to co-create further value with customers.
Because of the fact that CSR policies reach so many individuals, from those within the company to those invested in the company, both from a financial and practical or cooperative point-of-view, the role of business education and of CSR in general is vital to understanding how the business world works. Business education especially should focus upon CSR policies, in order to help future businesses thrive in the environments that will eventually be built by the coming generations. There are many challenges ahead, especially in the technology field, simply because of the many advancements that today's society is promoting.[footnoteRef:10] [10: Cooper, R. (2010). Technological Advancement: 10 Most Important Technological Advancements that Changed the World. Yahoo Voices. Retrieved January 27, from . ]
Business education is perhaps the first step to learning about CSR, and therefore the most important. Education will teach a generation about the skills necessary to uphold CSR values, and especially to focus upon the community as well as the company, so nobody is ignored. The role of this kind of education, especially in upholding good CSR policies for the future, is very important.[footnoteRef:11] [11: No Author. (2012). Did You Know? Corporate Social Responsibility. Accenture Online. Retrieved January 27, from . ]
This paper has discussed the various definitions accepted by today's community towards what CSR should mean, but has also discussed how to co-create value with customers and how to develop CSR skills across the board. The conclusions here, thus, focus upon what has already been discussed, which is the fact that…