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CSR social impact

Leveraging CSR social impact for corporate social justice and societal transformation
Best Practices
Written by
Hetal Sheth
Published on
February 21, 2022

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Social Impact refers to the positive influence that a company's socially responsible practices and policies have on society and the environment, demonstrating a commitment to ethical behavior, sustainability, and community welfare.

Corporate Social Responsibility 1.0: An Evolutionary Step

Corporate responsibility is critical now more than ever as global problems rise, from climate change to rising inequality. It is more important than ever for corporations to take responsibility. Corporate social impact has evolved to include social accountability to employees, customers, stakeholders, and local communities. Corporate social impact is like an internal and external responsibility that a company undertakes for profit and purpose to showcase its values.

Next level: Corporate Social Impact (CSR 2.0)

To be transformative, programs need to address the social and economic justice that is most pressing to the community. While this may sound obvious, CSR activities often suffer from one-way communication. Traditional CSR doesn’t require listening to the community.

  • Corporate Social Responsibility 1.0
  • Next level: Corporate Social Impact (CSR 2.0)
  • 4 Ways Companies Can Fight for Social and Economic Justice

Corporate Social Responsibility is not about giving to society; it is about transforming society.


Impactful CSR can be achieved :

  • Adopting the right approaches to address the social and economic justice that are most pressing to the community.
  • Adopting the collaborative process of joint-decision making, relationship-building, and learning from stakeholders for shared ownership of challenges and solutions.

1. CSR companies need to take a stance

To make a meaningful impact, CSR companies must take a stance on an important social and economic justice issue. However, it is important to note that this stance should not be solely based on the CEO's preferences, but rather, it should align with the company's expertise, the values of its employees, and the needs of the community it serves. A company can ensure that its efforts are focused and relevant by selecting an issue that resonates with these key stakeholders.

Companies should consider their unique strengths and capabilities when choosing a social and economic justice issue to address. For example, a technology company may choose to tackle the digital divide, working to provide equal access to technology and digital resources for underserved communities. On the other hand, a food company may prioritize addressing food insecurity and hunger, leveraging its expertise in the food industry to make a tangible difference.

2. Focus on relationships with stakeholders

Real transformative engagement is a two-way street where the voices and perspectives of the community stakeholders are heard and actively incorporated into decision-making processes. These stakeholders are the very reason why CSR programs exist in the first place, as they are the ones who have been directly affected by social and economic injustices. By listening to what these people say and allowing for joint-decision making, companies can create a sense of shared ownership and empower the community to be actively involved in finding solutions.

This collaborative approach to engagement goes beyond token gestures and superficial interactions. It requires genuine dialogue and open communication channels where the concerns and aspirations of the community stakeholders are given equal importance. By fostering relationships built on trust and mutual respect, companies can ensure that their CSR initiatives are aligned with the genuine needs and desires of the community.

3. Impact, not CSR activities

“We planted 100 trees this weekend,” the company newsletter proudly declares. What does that mean? Are you addressing climate change with that? CSR 2.0 focuses on impact, not activities.

In CSR 2.0, the focus is not just on the number of trees planted or activities completed but on the impact these initiatives have on addressing climate change. It's not enough to simply engage in token gestures or symbolic actions. Instead, companies must ensure that their efforts create meaningful and measurable change.

To truly address climate change, companies should consider the broader context and long-term effects of their actions. Planting 100 trees may be a positive step, but it's important to evaluate whether this action aligns with the company's overall sustainability goals and if it will have a significant impact on mitigating climate change. Companies should strive to create initiatives that lead to long-term carbon sequestration, promote reforestation in areas affected by deforestation, or support sustainable land management practices.

4. Learn continuously from their CSR programs

Corporate Social Impact is not a one-time effort but an ongoing journey of trial and error, constant learning, and improvement. Through this continuous learning process, companies can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they are trying to address and foster stronger relationships with their stakeholders.

By viewing Corporate Social Impact as a journey, companies recognize that it is not a quick-fix solution but a long-term commitment to creating positive change. This perspective allows for the acceptance of setbacks and failures as opportunities for growth and improvement. Companies can learn from their mistakes and adjust their strategies and approaches.

Furthermore, this continuous learning process enables companies to understand better the complex social and economic justice issues they are tackling. It allows them to gather insights and perspectives from various stakeholders, including the communities they serve, experts in the field, and other organizations working towards similar goals. By actively seeking out different viewpoints, companies can broaden their knowledge and gain a more holistic understanding of their challenges.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding, continuous learning also helps companies foster stronger relationships with their stakeholders. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to addressing social and economic injustices by actively listening to the community's needs and concerns. This open and collaborative approach builds trust and allows for meaningful engagement with stakeholders, resulting in more effective and impactful solutions.

Overall, the continuous learning process is vital to Corporate Social Impact. It allows companies to adapt and improve their strategies, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they are addressing, and build stronger relationships with their stakeholders. By embracing this ongoing journey of trial and error, companies can make a lasting and meaningful impact on social and economic justice issues.

Focus on True Impact with your CSR

CSR needs to focus on urgent social and economic justice issues. Companies have been investing heavily in CSR. Now it’s important to zero in on the right approach. Sopact is committed to helping organizations drive social and economic impact. 

Discover how Audible, an Amazon company, is revolutionizing its CSR program from CSR 1.0 to CSR 2.0 in this engaging webinar. Tune in to gain valuable insights and inspiration to drive social and economic impact in your organization.

Learn more:

How to ask open ended questions

Learn how to ask open-ended questions effectively with our insightful guide. An effective way to learn stakeholder voice.
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