The meaning of the Concept – From Debate to Consensus

The concept of CSR (corporate social responsibility) appears as an essential element of the public discourse about what the key purpose of the businesses is and what responsibilities arise from that purpose. To this day, different terms are in use when talking about this issue: corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate responsibility, corporate sustainability, corporate citizenship, or creating shared value.

Although in this context, the concept was presented in various forms and had different interpretations, in the recent years, it has been recognized as an integral part of the new sustainable economic model, which includes awareness of the new position and the importance of the business sector in the modern, global society and the responsibility that comes with it.

Within the European Union, CSR was first promoted as one of the new business policies in 2001 through the adoption of the Green Paper by the European Commission, and in the following years, the European Commission precisely defined CSR as a: “concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental issues in their business operations and relationships with stakeholders, on a voluntary basis “(White Paper, European Commission).

Since CSR is one of the essential elements of the European social model and a positive contribution to Europe’s growth strategy Europe 2020, as an indispensable part of the solution for “smart, sustainable and socially inclusive Europe”, European Commission announced in October 2011 a new Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy 2011-2014, in order to create adequate conditions for sustainable development and help the business sector to operate in a transparent and sustainable manner. For the first time in the last 10 years, the European Commission has modified its definition of corporate social responsibility, and explained this concept as “companies’ responsibility for their impact on the environment,” wanting thereby to point out that CSR is not an additional element of the business activities, but their essential component.

Most widely understood, the goal of the implementation of corporate social responsibility is to create the highest possible quality of life for all stakeholders, while at the same company’s profitability remains unimpaired. The practice of corporate social responsibility refers, therefore, to the whole sphere of influence and companies’ operations range, as well as the relationships that it thereby establishes: what the company produces, the manner in which it buys and sells, how it employs, trains and affects the development of human resources, how much it invests in the local community and respect for human and labor rights, as well as in the ways it is contributing to the preservation of the environment.

Simply put, CSR is based on the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions in the daily operations of the company, thus contributing to the advancement of the society and to the growth of the companies themselves.

Core topics and areas that have a key significance in corporate social responsibility, most often, are classified as it follows:

  • Market
  • Work Environment
  • Environment
  • Local Community

Transparent and ethical management system and control of the company embodied in good corporate governance is a prerequisite for the successful integration of CSR in all aspects of business through these areas.