CSR // Corporate Social Responsibility CSI // Corporate Social Investment
CSI and CSR are rather problematic terms, still used frequently in branding and business. I refer to them as problematic because of the issue with semantics. Semantics (in a broad sense) refers to the meaning and understanding of words (American Psychological Association, n.d).
In the case of CSI and CSR, it is found that entities outside of the corporate realm are negated or sidelined because of the specificity of the word ‘Corporate.’ Individuals, governments and Non-profit organisations (as examples) also tend to recognise a role in society and the world, and therefore tend to want to assume a form of responsibility and contribution. In some instances, Non-profit organisations (NPOs) and informal entities are used as a means to carry out the investment and responsibility requirements for corporate entities.
The word ‘Social’ begins to neglect that the impact human presence has on the planet lies beyond only social impact. While some may argue that governance, economic and environmental concerns do, in the end, all relate into social concerns, I would argue that impact and responsibility in these different areas should be acknowledged independently. At the same time, it can be argued that a lack of clear understanding as to where responsibility and investment should lie, results in confusion and an ability to claim contribution where very little is actually occurring.
Lastly, ‘Investment’ often has connotations of small projects with small budgets, while the word ‘Responsibility’ tends to lack a sense of action and implementation. It is felt that because there is confusion as to the meaning of CSI and CSR, they are often used as a guise to hide behind.
This brings me to my next point; CSI and CSR are problematic because they are born out of bad business practice. The sudden and marked realisation that organisations operating in a fast-paced, consumption-driven society had a significant social, environmental and economic impact bought about a necessity for corporate philanthropy and social donation. Increasingly organisations ‘jumped on the bandwagon,’ giving CSR and CSI a bad name and connotations of being nothing more than green-washing, window-dressing and putting up a front. CSI and CSR strategies have largely become Band-Aids where surgical intervention is needed.
It is therefore necessary to start thinking of solutions (for organisations) that lie beyond the conventional CSI and CSR. As the consumers’ minds begin to shift, and information availability increases, organisations have to adopt a new approach. I feel that this approach is one of sustainability and accountability.
Agreed, Kate! We should be talking about our sustainable approach to business.