The Truth of Corporate Social
Responsibility and Why It Matters - Part 1

The Truth of Corporate Social Responsibility and Why It Matters - Part 1

Within the domains of both business and entrepreneurship Corporate Social Responsibility has become something of a buzz word lately. Granted, despite the current popularity of the term there is an almost reflexive degree of disagreement on what it means and whether it will have any staying power within the business community. Further, the whole concept of Corporate Responsibility is often the spark of heated debate. Some see these three words as inherently paradoxical, like a three word double paired oxymoron. Others, CEO’s among them, see it as an inescapable future, the next stage of corporate evolution. In this first installment of a miniseries on business and digital currency trends at the forefront of internet culture we will lay the foundation to accurately describe this concept. So, what is Corporate Social Responsibility exactly and to what degree is it shaping the world of business and society at large?

Old Dog New Tricks

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR from here on) is not as new a concept as it seems, not by a long shot. In many ways it is a logical outgrowth of the far older historical concepts of Noblesse Oblige, “Reputational Capital”, and Corporate Philanthropy. Believe it or not, these terms gained contemporary traction in the business community as early as the onset of the industrial era, notably championed by 19 th Century billionaire, Andrew Carnegie. None of these ideas are new; however, modelling them in such a way as to make sense in, and even add value to, current mercantile paradigms, is what presents the primary challenge for CSR proponents.

Selfless Selfishness?

The idea of CSR seems to have something of anthropological underpinnings. Human beings fundamentally admire altruism, and it isn’t all to clear why. Sure, we may act in a rationally selfish manner to survive, but we admire those who don’t. Furthermore, our admiration is none trivially linked to our sense of trust and in business terms our sense of trust is equally none trivially corelated with our purchasing choices. This is something that brand leaders have known for quite some time. While the exact framework of what is going on here is not yet clearly understood, there are direct and indirect benefits to corporate generosity in the social domain. As Carnegie is said to have once famously put it, “Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim with charity and you shall never be won’t of profit”. An entire school of thought in the business community has developed around CSR and its spinoff effect of harnessing the admiration of the public. The curious thing about this, is that for CSR to work, it must be genuine, hence the selflessness… despite certain, important, underlying profit centered motivations. Additionally, it is worth point out that in the digital landscape of today, real truly does recognize real. Almost everything of note done by companies in the living or digital domain is scrutinized under the microscope of dedicated legions of internet users. Corporate Responsibility is covertly becoming interchangeable with Internet
Accountability.

TL;DR (barely…)

While not a new concept, CSR is natural outgrowth of productive social interactions among humans. We like nice people and if those nice people sell us nice things, we will be highly inclined to buy them. Corporations benefit from this, even if there is financial investment required on their part. Corporate Social Responsibility, while not the main function of a business, is more and more becoming a standardized required function of a large businesses in an increasingly digital world.

Kyle Ueckermann