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The Key to Understanding Diverse Audiences With CSR

May 1, 2018

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The term “corporate social responsibility” has been around for more than 50 years, and yet its meaning still stirs debate.

As early as 1973, Dow Votaw, a pioneer of corporate research, lamented that the phrase “means something, but not always the same thing, to everybody.” A recent survey by the insurance company Aflac revealed that even CSR executives still cannot agree on its definition, and CSR communicators, investors and customers have very different ideas about what constitutes socially responsible corporate behavior.

Some CSR pros emphasize its external aspects, such as caring about the community. Others place greater importance on its internal applications, such as providing good health benefits to employees. For investment pros, profitability is a paramount feature of CSR. Consumers believe that environmental stewardship and fair treatment of employees are essential components of socially responsible companies. 

Variations in how people define CSR should not come as a surprise. After all, the meanings of “good” and “evil,” “acceptable” and “unacceptable,” or “responsible” and “irresponsible” are rooted in the norms and values of one’s own social group.

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