Ever since the term "corporate social responsibility" became popularized in the 1960s, it’s been used to cover a broad swath of ethical issues, including those that affect the environment, human rights, supply-chain sustainability, consumers and transparency with corporate governance. All of the world’s largest companies have corporate social responsibility programs; indeed, according to a 2013 study by Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship, 97% of surveyed companies reported being allocated a discreet operating budget for corporate citizenship, compared with 81% in 2010. So it seems safe to say that CSR is a business approach that is here to stay.
Companies integrate CSR into their businesses in a variety of ways. Organizations that prioritize environmental sustainability, for example, minimize their carbon footprints by reducing their pollution and developing clean energy solutions. Ethical labor practices are also a significant focus of many CSR programs, particularly with organizations that have a global presence. And of course corporate philanthropy is an important aspect of CSR, one that can be achieved through donations of money, goods or time, with employee volunteering and giving a particularly strong source of charitable firepower if properly harnessed.
But there is still lively debate about the financial merits of CSR. Supporters insist that CSR is intricately tied to a company’s profitability and long-term viability, specifically helping to supercharge a company's public image, media visibility and positive workplace environment, for starters. Detractors argue that CSR distracts from a company’s bottom line and serves as nothing more than expensive window dressing for a company’s PR efforts. The issue between profitability and social responsibility is one that continues to be much studied, but the debate is bound to persist until more conclusive data is gathered.