Corporate social responsibility initiatives are standards and measures that businesses put in place to benefit society. Generally speaking, these initiatives are based on sustainability in four different categories.
Environmental sustainability initiatives enacted by businesses generally focus on two main areas: limiting pollution and reducing greenhouse gases. As the awareness of environmental issues grows, businesses that take steps to reduce air, land and water pollution can increase their standing as good corporate citizens while also benefiting society as a whole. For example, Cisco Systems, a multinational technology company, has taken a variety of steps to reduce its carbon footprint, including the installation of photovoltaic systems at production facilities and developing platforms that allow employees to work from remote locations rather than commuting to the office.
Philanthropic initiatives include the donation of time, money or resources to charities and organizations at local, national or international levels. These donations can be directed to a variety of worthy causes including human rights, national disaster relief, clean water and education programs in underdeveloped countries. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has donated billions of dollars to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports numerous causes including education, the eradication of malaria and agricultural development. In 2014, Bill Gates was the single largest giver in the world, donating $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ethical Business Practices
The primary focus on ethics is to provide fair labor practices for businesses’ employees as well as the employees of their suppliers. Fair business practices for employees include equal pay for equal work and living wage compensation initiatives. Ethical labor practices for suppliers include the use of products that have been certified as meeting fair trade standards. For example, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream uses fair trade-certified ingredients like sugar, cocoa, vanilla, coffee and bananas.
Economic responsibility focuses on practices that facilitate the long-term growth of the business, while also meeting the standards set for ethical, environmental and philanthropic practices. By balancing economic decisions with their overall effects on society, businesses can improve their operations while also engaging in sustainable practices. An example of economic responsibility is when a company modifies its manufacturing processes to include recycled products, which could benefit the company by potentially lowering the cost of materials and also benefit society by consuming fewer resources.