by Stephanie Poll

I am in the midst of finishing my senior year of college and one of the final classes my business major requires is a seminar class. One of our big topics of study and discussion has been the idea of corporate social responsibility. This isn’t a new idea; however, companies are coming under more pressure with the increased sensitivity to and awareness of environmental and ethical issues. According to, corporate social responsibility means that organizations have a duty to care for all of their stakeholders in all aspects of their business.

But what exactly does ‘caring’ mean in this sense? Some may feel that being socially responsible simply means giving back to the community in the form of charitable contributions. Others argue that this is not enough. Companies are under more pressure these days not only to be aware of what they are doing with their profits, but to be aware of how they are obtaining those profits. Are companies being environmentally friendly? Are they being accountable not only for their shareholders but all of their stakeholders (i.e. employees, suppliers, vendors, community) as well?

Because the topic has gained importance, it is not unusual to find some companies publishing corporate social responsibility reports along with their annual reports. Generally, a report states how the company’s corporate mission blends with its social mission, and how the company plans to become and/or stay socially responsible. You might even find a company stating what they didn’t do so well in the past year with regards to being socially responsible.

A widely quoted definition by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that ” Corporate social responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large .”

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