The Practice of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) around the World

The last article dealt with how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) evolved from its early beginnings in the 1950’s to a full-fledged business imperative by the second decade of the 21st century.

If we turn our gaze to the geographical evolution of the concept i.e. the way in which businesses in different regions across the world adopted and implemented the idea, we find that there is no uniformity in the timeline nor there is a consensus on what actually constitutes CSR among businesses in different parts of the world.

For instance, CSR as a concept found its feet more in Europe than in the US though the latter was responsible for its early initiation into business literature.

The fact that the “green consciousness” and the “green movement” secured major gains in Europe meant that companies and firms in the continent were more amenable towards CSR than their counterparts in the US. However, in recent years, there has been a “levelling off” with the body polity in the US recognizing the need for businesses to be held accountable and hence shaking off the long inertia that enveloped them during the time Europe was making rapid strides in implementing CSR.

This has led to the mainstreaming of the idea of CSR to the extent that we have reached a point (in the West) where CSR is a business imperative in the same way taking care of the workforce is. The policies and programs that have been launched by many firms routinely include their commitment towards CSR and their affirmation of the need to be socially responsible.

However, the other continents like Asia and Latin America were lagging behind for a long time in even recognizing that businesses have a social responsibility. Though this might seem primitive or Luddite to say that businesses need have absolutely no responsibility towards society, the fact that many firms and businesses in these regions practiced a variety of capitalism that was unique to those countries and which included a certain inbuilt social conscience.

Hence, while it cannot be said that these regions and countries were left behind totally, the concept as it is perceived in the West was not being practiced here. Many commentators in these countries initially dismissed the idea of CSR as an imperialist construct and something that is a luxury much in the same way that early adopters in US and Europe faced these accusations.

In recent decades, countries like India and Brazil have indeed taken the lead in making businesses adopt policies that are socially responsible, environmentally conscious, compassionate in their human dimensions and thrifty in their use of natural resources.

The United Nations has had a significant role to play in universal acceptance of the idea of CSR with their promotion of the “Global Compact” to which various countries are signatories. This global compact binds the signatories to universally accepted principles of social responsibility which the businesses in those countries ought to follow and which is tracked for implementation.

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Corporate Social Responsibility