Corporate responsibility

The public’s growing interest in ethical living and consumerism and the importance of organisational values has put increasing pressure on businesses to demonstrate corporate responsibility.  This can include the development and demonstration of ethical business practices, policies, activities and, reporting mechanisms. Corporations have the challenge of achieving business growth during tough economic times while considering sustainability principles. There is an increasing focus on product-driven corporations achieving profitability through environmental sustainability - in terms of supply chain and material; and embedding local community projects within consumer marketing or talent management work strands.

What are the implications?

  • Changes in levels of income flowing into the VCS from the private sector as corporate responsibility is no longer synonymous with corporate giving.
  • Calls for businesses to show greater transparency around their corporate responsibility. Requests for this data to be made public in a manner akin to the Open Data movement.
  • Potential growing pressure for legally binding regulation on corporate responsibility. An increase in employee volunteering as more businesses feel under pressure to demonstrate corporate responsibility (see trends in volunteering).
  • Pressure on VCOs to demonstrate the same sense of corporate responsibility as the private sector.
  • Risk that the private sector could be perceived to be ahead of the game when it comes to environmental concern.

Moving Forward

Corporate Responsibility concerns organisations of all sectors. Individuals are increasingly aware and critical of organisations that don’t practice what they preach.

  • Is your organisation 'walking the talk'?
  • Could your organisation develop a new relationship with a private company? A local business may feel more connected to your organisation’s services. However, it could require extensive research into the activities and corporate responsibility practices of local businesses. How can your organisation go about doing this?
  • Can you demonstrate that your organisations’ mission fits with their social aims?
  • Can you take advantage of non-cash support (e.g. in kind support or employee volunteering)?
  • Are you exploiting websites and online services such as Guidestar UK to promote your services to the private sector and to encourage them to consider donating money to your organisation?

There is increasing pressure from funders and customers for organisations to be socially responsible.

  • Has your organisation got the reporting systems in place to demonstrate it is?
  • How might a relationship with a corporate body change the way your organisation monitors and demonstrates its impact?

Want to know more?

Engaging business in the community – not a quick fix

Published by: The Smith Institute – a left-wing think tank

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? This report is based on a review of numerous other previous reports and articles. It is focused on six themes: leadership; capacity building and facilitation; information sharing; community investment; regulation; legislation and fiscal measures; measurement and reporting.

How useful is this? This is a thorough report although it is intended more to deliver policy recommendations. Nevertheless, it gives a useful overview and links to other relevant documents.

Last updated at 18:10 Tue 08/Feb/11.

Recent comments

Megan 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

You mention corporate citizenship, which sounds interesting but I’m not sure what you mean. Could you explain some more?

Natalie's picture


Third Sector Foresight

As CSR now covers an increasingly broad range of areas that relate to the wider impact of business and business practices, there has also been a shift in the language of CSR. ‘Corporate citizenship’ is basically a term to describe organisations who actively participate in the public sphere as members of society. This goes beyond businesses in the private sector, as the NHS corporate citizenship website illustrates. VCOs are also facing the same pressures and some are therefore re-examining their own practices and policies but this has significant cost implications. There is a risk that the private sector could be perceived to be ahead of the game when it comes to environmental concern (for example, Marks and Spencers already plans to go carbon neutral within five years). So far, CSR has developed essentially on a voluntary basis but calls for corporate accountability are growing, with initiatives, such as the CORE Coalition in the UK pressing for legally binding regulation. Do people think the VCS will struggle to keep up with this aspect of CSR?

Oliver's picture


NCVO Research Team

CSR has been going for years now (10+) and never got close to binding regulation, is there any evidence that it is going to happen any time soon (apart from isolated pockets like carbon trading)?
Why are private companies like M&S going carbon neutral and doing other CSR initiatives – because they care or because it’s a PR exercise?
Surely CSR is the lifeblood of the sector (substituting ‘corporate’ for ‘organisational’). Therefore is there any need to get caught up in a ‘we’re more engaged with social responsibility than you’ game with the private sector – by definition we should be far ahead. If we’re not, the sector’s seriously in trouble!

I went to an interesting lecture held by PMPA yesterday – How can Local government save the planet?. It focused (unsuprisingly) on what local government can do to stop climate change, and the example of carbon neutral Marks and Spencers was also given – I hadn’t seen the NHS corporate citizenship website before, but this thread has made me think about CSR and the public sector locally- If all 410 local authorities were better ‘corporate citizens’ could they save the planet? I dont think they could do it alone, but I think they could make a real difference – in relation to more then climate change.

Amy's picture


The lines are being blurred between public, private and third sectors and creating community. I don’t perceive it as a competition but rather as a success that these positive ethos are crossing sectors. The challenge is for VCS organisations to respond to the changes in the “market place” and still add value.

A question that I keep exploring is: if we are mission driven and our mission is accomplished, successfully addressed by others or no longer relevant, what becomes of the organisation?” We exist to fulfil a need that is otherwise unmet. To stay relevant we must be in partnerships, leading the conversation, pushing for more. This need not be our core activity but it has to be our contribution to organisational citizenship.

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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