An Introduction to Social Responsibility

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Social responsibility is an ethical framework that suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. From a business perspective, it can be defined as the consistent commitment to behave in an ethical manner and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of a company’s employees and their families—as well as local communities, the environment, and society as a whole.
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A variety of terms are used, sometimes interchangeably, to refer to social responsibility: business ethics, corporate citizenship, corporate accountability, sustainability. Essentially, they all describe companies’ efforts to address ethical practices, employee-friendly policies, environmental impact, governance, human rights, and community engagement within the core functions of the business.

According to research by the global nonprofit organization Business for Social Responsibility, corporations report publicly on their social responsibility activity to meet the demands of stakeholders and other interested individuals—such as employees, consumers, clients, suppliers, shareholders, lawmakers, and regulators—who are asking companies to be accountable not only for their own performance, but also for the effect of their products, the performance of their supply chain, and the well-being of their employees.

social responsibility efforts have increased in recent decades, BSR suggests, in part because companies and their investors have gained greater awareness of the risks they may face when they do not address corporate social responsibility-related issues and the benefits that may be possible when they do.

social responsibility initiatives can encompass policies, programs, or specific projects within companies and with external partners, and will vary by business, size, sector, and geography. It can encompass and may exceed traditional corporate philanthropy.


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