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Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to operating a business in a manner that accounts for the social and environmental impact created by the business. CSR means a commitment to developing policies that integrate responsible practices into daily business operations, and to reporting on progress made toward implementing these practices.

Common CSR policies include:

  • Adoption of internal controls reform in the wake of Enron and other accounting scandals;
  • Commitment to diversity in hiring employees and barring discrimination;
  • Management teams that view employees as assets rather than costs;
  • High performance workplaces that integrate the views of line employees into decision-making processes;
  • Adoption of operating policies that exceed compliance with social and environmental laws;
  • Advanced resource productivity, focused on the use of natural resources in a more productive, efficient and profitable fashion (such as recycled content and product recycling); and
  • Taking responsibility for conditions under which goods are produced directly or by contract employees domestically or abroad.

In the past five years great strides have been made toward integrate CSR into the core culture of major companies. Blue chip companies as varied as Chevron Texaco, General Electric, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard have a stated public commitment to CSR and regularly report on CSR performance. Some European governments require companies to report on their social and environmental performance. Companies compete to be included on Fortune's annual list of the best companies to work for and to pass the screens of social investment funds.

"Some see this work as charity, philanthropy, or an allocation of resources that could better be donated by shareowners themselves, " writes Debra Dunn, Hewlett Packard Senior Vice President for Global Citizenship in the company's 2005 report. "But to us, it is a vital investment in our future, essential to our top-line and bottom-line business success."

Early CSR reports often focused on philanthropy as a driver of CSR. That notion has been supplanted by a broad commitment to protecting and improving the lives of workers and the communities in which companies do business. CSR reports now typically address issues impacting virtually every area of operations: governance and ethics; worker hiring, opportunity and training; responsible purchasing and supply chain policies, and energy and environmental impact.

Progress in Banking Sector

In 2004 and 2005, several banking sector companies to adopted rigorous CSR policies to limit lending related to destructive projects. In response to pressure from environmental activists and shareholders, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase agreed to not finance projects in endangered or high conservation value forests or where illegal logging is occurring. Goldman Sachs was the first global investment bank to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy, acknowledging the scientific consensus on climate change and calling for urgent action by public policy makers and federal regulators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite progress made by many companies, adoption of CSR policies and reporting are still in its early stages at most corporations. Our Corporate Social Responsibility Program engages companies to adopt strong social and environmental policies, and follows us to ensure that commitments are kept. This website contains many examples of companies that have adopted CSR strategies in response to our work.


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