What Is Social Responsibility?

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill.

Being Socially Responsible means that people and organisations must behave ethically and with sensitivity toward social, cultural, economic and environmental issues. Striving for social responsibility helps individuals, organisations and governments have a positive impact on development, business and society with a positive contribution to bottom-line results.

Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) to achieve Corporate Social Responsibility (CSP)

ISP  may appear to be a new concept in relation to CSP, but it is a concept as old as The Golden Rule — Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ISR expands on this by promoting a proactive stance towards positively influencing and affecting the people and environments outside your immediate circle. ISR is at the roots of CSR, because a corporate comprises of individuals and hence determines the social responsibility culture it creates. This is the intermingled relationship between CSR and ISR. Individuals are becoming more socially responsible and, in response to this Corporations and Companies need to become more socially responsible to meet consumer demand.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) states: “In the wake of increasing globalisation, we have become increasingly conscious not only of what we buy, but also how the goods and services we buy have been produced. Environmentally harmful production, child labor, dangerous working environments and other inhumane conditions are examples of issues being brought into the open. All companies and organisations aiming at long-term profitability and credibility are starting to realise that they must act in accordance with norms of right and wrong.”

Socially responsible individuals are demanding companies and organisations to become more socially responsible.

How Does an Individual Become Socially Responsible?

The Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation (WCIF), Bulgaria, describes ISR in its position statement on Social Responsibility as,
“The individual social responsibility includes the engagement of each person towards the community where he lives, which can be expressed as an interest towards what’s happening in the community, as well as in the active participation in the solving of some of the local problems. Under community we understand the village, the small town or the residential complex in the big city, where lives every one of us. Each community lives its own life that undergoes a process of development all the time. And everyone of us could take part in that development in different ways, for example by taking part in cleaning of the street on which he lives, by taking part in organization of an event, connected with the history of the town or the village or by rendering social services to children without parents or elderly people. The individual social responsibility also could be expressed in making donations for significant for the society causes – social, cultural or ecological. There are many ways of donating, as for example donating of goods or donating money through a bank account or online”

Social Responsibility can be “negative,” in that it is a responsibility to refrain from acting (resistance stance) or it can be “positive,” meaning there is a responsibility to act (proactive stance). Being socially responsible  not only requires participating in socially responsible activities like recycling, volunteering and mentoring, but to actually make it a lifestyle. Only through a commitment to embrace and embed social responsibility into your personal value and belief system can you truly become socially responsible in all you do.

According to The Harris Poll ®#57 , June 18, 2007[7], when it comes to individual social responsibility, there are three types of people:

  1. Two-thirds of U.S. adults have “Good Intentions” – they believe that social responsibility is a good idea, and they do what they can in terms of volunteering, but they do not sacrifice huge amounts of time or money.
  2. At the top end of the spectrum, 8 percent of U.S. adults “Practice What They Preach” and for this group, individual, as well as corporate, social responsibility is extremely important.
  3. One-quarter of U.S. adults, however, follow a philosophy of “To Thine Own Self Be True” and, for this group, social responsibility has little consequence in their lives.

On the other hand the trends show that the biggest growth for big charitable organisations in the world is coming through individuals and not through Corporations and Governments [8].

To take a proactive stance, ISR can start off as a simple act of  philanthropic behaviour. My husband and I actually budget for giving,  just like we do for living or car expenses. Add to this the campaigner, volunteer and activist in you that picks-up and supports issues affecting society. You may just start off volunteering once a month somewhere that suits your skills, abilities or interests. The other day, I asked a friend if he could teach my son guitar. We determined a tuition cost but instead of me paying him, he asked me if I could pay the charity of his choice. If you have the choice of two products and one product supports a good cause or was produced in a more ethical way, then purchase that product. You may only be one person but if everyone did their part, we could change the world!

All Social responsibility, both individual and corporate, is voluntary; it is about going above and beyond what is called for by the law(legal responsibility). It involves an idea that it is better to be proactive toward a problem rather than reactive to a problem. Social responsibility means eliminating corrupt, irresponsible or unethical behavior that might bring harm to the community, its people, or the environment before the behavior happens.

Social Responsibility Quotes:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”  ~George Bernard Shaw

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.”  ~Hubert H. Humphrey

“One is a member of a country, a profession, a civilization, a religion.  One is not just a man.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell

“Each of us is a being in himself and a being in society, each of us needs to understand himself and understand others, take care of others and be taken care of himself.”  ~Haniel Long

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Independence”… [is] middle-class blasphemy.  We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”  ~G.B. Shaw, Pygmalion, 1912

“A machine has value only as it produces more than it consumes – so check your value to the community.”  ~Martin H. Fischer

“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.”  ~Richard Whately

“We cannot live only for ourselves.  A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” ~Herman Melville

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