Q&A: The World of CSR, part one

  • Written by Alexandra Frazier

Peyton Rowe is both CreateAthon’s executive director and its chief evangelist. In our two-part question and answer series, she will address what’s trending in the world of social good, and why it’s so important for companies to hop on the Corporate Social Responsibility bandwagon.

Q: What is corporate social responsibility (CSR), and why does it matter?

A: If you look up the definition of corporate social responsibility, you will find a standard explanation like this: The corporate belief that a company needs to be responsible for its actions – socially, ethically, and environmentally. That is true indeed. What that means is finding ways to make your large organization or corporation engage with the communities they affect.

Peyton Rowe, CreateAthon Executive Director

The phrase was coined in 1953 with the basic, generic idea that businesses have a responsibility to do good deeds for society. Over time, CSR has moved from a casual discussion point to a vital component of business-oriented strategic planning. In years past, CSR programs have been seen as a way to look good in the public’s eye. But, in the age of social media, smart consumers demand transparency. And that is a good thing.

Right now, the definition and implementation of CSR programs is changing dramatically. This is so important because corporations have the scale and size to achieve the kind of wide-reaching impact that other organizations don’t. We live in an age where companies are expected to use leverage of that scale to socially conscious ends.

In action, this has often meant supplying financial support to nonprofits and organizing volunteer days for employees to serve as a large group at a community organization that needed support in building homes or cleaning up areas. More recent programs have sought to create a deeper connection between corporations and the communities they affect, as well as lend their employees’ knowledge and expertise to philanthropic endeavors.

Q: Are there different kinds of CSR?

A: Absolutely! When most people hear the words corporate social responsibility, they tend to think about financial donations or large groups of employees donating a day working together to build houses or cleaning up areas. That is still incredibly valuable, but now there are so many more ways to engage a workplace with the community. The latest development of CSR is skills-based volunteering, like CreateAthon. In that scenario, businesses that have particular skills that would benefit an organization that serves a community (often a nonprofit), donate the time of those employees to use their knowledge. Pro bono legal advice is considered the grandfather of the pro bono movement, but other areas of skills are being leveraged. A consulting group might offer financial advice. Communications firms offer marketing advice. Web developers offer development of web and app tools. Of course it’s beneficial for a corporation to donate funds, but many nonprofits need deeper guidance to implement change. That’s when skills-based volunteering is most powerful.

Be on the lookout for part two of our Q & A with Peyton, in which she will discuss both the myriad ways that companies are bringing CSR to the workplace and the benefits of CSR for employees and employers. Stay tuned!