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29 Apr 2013

Is charity still part of corporate responsibility?

George Onisiforou

In its early stages, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was mainly about handing over cheques to charities. This is not currently the case, as CSR has evolved from mere philanthropy.

CSR is now seen more as a strategic opportunity than as an expense. Companies are addressing their social and environmental footprints and social challenges by developing new business models, and by concentrating on generating long-term profits responsibly.

But is there still a space for charity in this new CSR paradigm?

This was the topic of a recent online debate held by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Although participants concluded that CSR has nothing to do with charity, the discussion revealed a more complex relationship between the two concepts.

Admittedly, and as one participant pointed out, there is no need to choose between CSR and charity. CSR and charity can coexist and they often do. Both are essential to addressing the full spectrum of social and environmental challenges.

The debate highlighted that although charity in itself is insufficient in addressing large social and environment issues, it reaches out to causes and challenges that cannot be serviced by business models and capitalist endeavours.

CSR focuses on how companies make their profits, and therefore can influence directly the positive or negative impacts of their operations. But it has failed to manifest itself broadly within the business world, and remains a developing concept.

Responsible companies acknowledge that they need to contribute to society beyond the impact of their own operations, and include charity as part of their CSR commitments.

To read more about this debate, visit http://ccdebates.eiu.com/

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