Stages of Corporate Social Responsibility

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Stages of Corporate Social Responsibility

According to Kreitner (2009), there are FOUR STRATEGIES for responding to social responsibility that companies can utilize (p.124). Beginning with the least responsibility and moving toward the greatest CSR:
  1. REACTION: A reactive CSR approach is taken when a company "resists change" and defers "responsibility," commonly used by tobacco and oil companies (Kreitner, 2009, p.124).
  2. DEFENSE: This approach relies on developing a positive corporate identity through advertising and publicity to avoid taking on greater responsibilities (Kreitner, 2009, p.124). These organizations are often politically active in the hopes of preventing legislation resulting in greater legal obligations.
  3. ACCOMMODATION: Organizations utilize this approach when they take steps in response to governmental or political pressures (Kreitner, 2009, p.124).
  4. PRO-ACTION: The greatest CSR is apparent in organizations that initiate "progressive programs" to set the bar for the industry in which they operate (Kreitner, 2009, p.124). Altough this stance requires time and money to constantly monitor social issues, the potential benefits to companies include: attracting "socially responsible" investors and employees, improving brand recognition, and adding value, not only for customers and shareholders but also for the groups who benefit from the programs (Kreitner, 2009, p.126).
Companies should move away from less responsibility and toward a proactive approach to reap the benefits for society and themselves (Caudron, 2000).

In 2012, researchers Angelo et al. broadly identified 3 environmental management stages in organizations. Since environmental management is an intrinsic part of CSR, these stages are also important to understand the development of CSR-processes. The stages are:
  1. REACTIVE: In this stage the first CSR initiatives are taken. This stage has a relatively low level of environmental commitment. This stage is called reactive in that CSR initiatives are taken as a result of legal requirements by way of internal adjustments. Examples are investing in equipment for regulating pollution, inspecting the waste of resources and collecting internal residues.
  2. PREVENTIVE: This stage is a bit more evolved. Now CSR initiatives are not only taken because of legal requirements, but also because of evolving social-environmental requirements in a new market with customers that are more aware of these issues. As a result, the efficiency of implementing CSR-initiatives is higher when compared to the reactive stage. Therefore the number of organizations involved in CSR implementation has risen in this stage. The level of environmental commitment in this stage is also higher than the reactive stage.
  3. PROACTIVE: In this stage, environmental management has developed to an integrated strategy in order to discover new chances and innovations to create competitive advantages and to maximize environmental commitment and social participation. Environmental problems are not seen as a threat anymore. Rather, they have become opportunities for organizations regarding technologies, market and production.

Martinuzzi and Krumay (2013) mention 4 stages of Corporate Social Responsibility implementation. Each of these stages reflects a business operation in which CSR can be integrated. The 4 CSR stages are ranked on the effect on competitiveness that each kind of CSR-implementation has: the first stage has the smallest impact and the last stage has the biggest impact on the competitive advantage of an organization:
1. Project-oriented CSR: Organizations can approach CSR by starting projects which are socially and environmentally responsible. The aim is to "do good" and set up projects in order to achieve their goals. Projects typically do not affect the whole organization, but only the project. Furthermore, they often have a short or limited duration and in bad times most companies will cancel these kinds of activities quickly.
2. Quality-oriented CSR: This stage integrates CSR in an organization's quality management system. This stage is somewhat more powerful than the first stage because quality-oriented CSR at least leads to some changes in the organizations' structure/processes.
3. Strategic CSR: This stage is about "rethinking your business". Strategic CSR strives to incorporate environment and society in the strategy and business decision making of an organization, so as to create the potential to innovate. Therefore, strategic CSR has an even stronger link with competitiveness.
4. Transformational CSR: The environment and society are continuously changing in this world, which makes flexibility highly desirable in organizations. Transformational CSR strives to create new capabilities that makes the organization able to adapt to changes. It integrates CSR with the transformations the organization is undergoing and with the learning processes of an organization.
Caudron, Shari. (2000, October 1). The "Greening" of Corporate America, Business Finance
Kreitner, R. (2009). Management. (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Angelo, F.D, Bartocci, L. Amui, L. Caldana, A.C.F and C.J.C. Jabbour (2012) "Towards a strategic CSR: a Brazilian case study" Business Strategy Series Vol. 13 Iss.5 pp. 224-238
Martinuzzi, A. and B. Krumay (2013) "The Good, the Bad, and the Successful How Corporate Social Responsibility Leads to Competitive Advantage and Organizational Transformation, Journal of Change Management, Vol 13, Iss 4, 2013

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