Engaging Corporations - Some suggestions on how to engage corporations based on stories of network members

Definition of concepts, Framework presentation

Two major concepts used in the next pages are defined: corporate social responsibility and ‘engaging corporations’ defined from the perspective of PLE participants.

The role that corporations play in social development and environmental protection has been generally called Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR. In an earlier study on mapping out CSR practices in different parts of the world1, WINGS learned more about CSR conceptualisation and how it has reflected local contexts. Different terminologies have been used to describe various practices: "corporate philanthropy”, "corporate social investment,” "corporate citizenship,” "socially responsible business,” etc. These terminologies have been used interchangeably with corporate social responsibility in some countries. The mapping exercise provides a glossary of the various terms in use. It concludes that based on this mapping there are three broad categories of CSR definitions:

  • CSR, corporate responsibility, corporate citizenship, corporate social and environmental responsibility, sustainability
  • Corporate philanthropy
  • Social investment, socially responsible investing

The terminologies used are important as they describe the evolving thinking behind the role that corporations play in a society, considering the unique influences of historical, social and cultural milieus. There is no single authoritative definition and concept of corporate social responsibility. It suffices for CSR practitioners and researchers to know that the different conceptions capture how more and more companies seek for ways to contribute positively to the development of society.

How does the public consider this societal contribution? "First, do no harm; pay workers fairly; do not contribute to environmental messes.” This sentiment puts a high value on standards-compliant operational aspects of business more than their corporate citizenship projects. Affirming this popular position on CSR, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2005 global survey revealed that the ”best way for companies to make a positive contribution to society" is to:

  • "Develop healthier, safer products and services”(ranked #1)
  • "Work to solve a specific social problem”(ranked #2)
  • "Donate money to charities” (ranked last)