As citizens, we are expected to uphold certain responsibilities to the communities in which we live. These basic responsibilities largely connect to the notion of ethics, which presses that one's own decisions have the power to influence the entire social system. Implying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, this concept of synergy suggests that each individual plays a role in societal outcomes.
On a larger scale, the idea of corporate social responsibility holds that big businesses work under similar expectations to maintain such a social agreement. Often amassing extensive power over the economic, legal, and political arenas, corporations are responsible to take an active role in ensuring the well being of its employees, the community, and fundamentally, society as a whole.
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) maintains that businesses are held accountable to the society. It has become most prevalent within the last 55 years, extending to countries worldwide. However, America began predominately utilizing CSR beginning in 1945. At this point in history, corporations were less leading from within the business sector. Therefore, early concepts of CSR are regarded more as "social responsibility."
Advocating for capitalism in 1945, the business world was constantly threatened by communist ideas. European economies, which emphasized socialism, greatly differed from the global-capitalism approach of the U.S. However, when the European Union was formed, this initiated the spread of CSR ideas globally. Despite the differences in economies, countries across the globe have increasingly begun practicing CSR over the years. According to the History of Corporate Responsibility Project, a 1946 Fortune Magazine survey found that, "Social consciousness (of businessmen)–businessmen were responsible for the consequences of their actions in a sphere somewhat wider than that covered by their profit-and-loss statements. Note: 93.% of businessmen responding agreed with this statement." This suggests that CSR is not a new concept, having already been initiated in the 1940's.
Advocating the spread of ideas, globalization played a factor in advancing the concepts of CSR since 1945. As companies began expanding overseas, they were met with societal issues. For example, in 2009, Apple Inc. violated child labor laws, employing fifteen year old youths to work in Chinese factories. Recognizing this was a problem, the company immediately worked to correct the issue. The global expansion of Apple motivated the company to improve working conditions and fight child labor law violations, thereby bettering the world as a whole.
Additionally, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have initiated the move towards CSR practices within the business world. By fighting for fair corporate behavior, NGOs motivate companies to adopt ethical practices. For example, many environmental organizations support the use of more sustainable power energy sources. This push to reduce the global footprint has led companies like Google to adopt more environmentally beneficial practices.
Currently, it highlights that the choices and moves made by large businesses are vital in affecting the lives of citizens. For this reason, businessmen and women are not only responsible for themselves, but also the good of the public.
Extending beyond economic and legal matters, the concept of corporate social responsibility emphasizes that in order to maintain social power, one must be held accountable to society. In addition, corporations should have a multiplicity of interests, including those of its employees, suppliers, deals, communities, and the nation.
A large part of CSR involves voluntarism and philanthropy. This has enabled social issues to be transformed into business opportunities that benefit the larger community. Working in conjunction with regard to the well-being of society, instead of simply a corporation's own profitability, facilitates a better world for all.