Basic CSR Ideas & Terms

Circular Economy

Circular Economy is the notion that, in a world of finite resources, a sustainable economy is one in which resources are infinitely reused for some other purpose, whether it be through recycling, sharing or reuse. It ideally begins at the product design phase to ensure circularity throughout the life of a product and its packaging. This is different from a linear economy, where things are designed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to end up as waste.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept that businesses can contribute to improving the world through various forms of social and environmental definitions and philosophies of what constitutes CSR are now commonplace. The definition of CSR falls short of relevant. Let us leave the definition distractions behind us and focus on making things happen.

Creating Shared Value (CSV)

CSV is an alternative to traditional CSR or related models, such as cause marketing. The main idea behind CSV is that a business can generate incremental value or wealth by placing social and environmental issues at the core of its overall business strategy. One example that's cited often is the flooring company Interface. Once upon a time, the company's founder, the late Ray Anderson, had an epiphany of sorts and decided to fundamentally restructure his company around circular economy principles. As a result, carpet recycling isn't an add-on at Interface. It's at the core of what they offer their customers. The change in strategy resulted in company growth and lower social and environmental impacts from their products.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Investor-speak for measuring the triple bottom line performance of companies as a way of better evaluating risk and return. It is often confused with socially responsible investing (SRI). The objective of SRI is to generate better returns by investing in companies that meet or exceed high standards of environmental and social performance. And while ESG criteria can be used to evaluate and invest in companies with outstanding environmental and social practices they can also be used to evaluate companies that some people consider to be morally reprehensible. Presumably, the latter companies would fare poorly when rated on ESG factors and would be considered to be riskier investments.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

EPR is a common business practice in  some  parts  of the world, most notably Europe, Canada. It exists as regulatory policy for a few categories of consumer goods in a smattering of jurisdictions in  the U.S. The concept is simple: If you make a product, the cost of recycling and disposal should be borne by you and not society at large. Some manufacturers feel that EPR policies are fundamentally unfair, yet others embrace them. In a world where manufacturers often control many aspects of products we own (think of smart phones and restrictions on your ability to fix them on your own), it's becoming harder to argue that a manufacturer's responsibility for its product doesn't extend beyond the point of sale.

Materiality Assessment

Finding out what really matters to your business as it relates to your impact on the world. Addressing deforestation is material to an agricultural products company. Donating funds to a local school is a very good thing to do, but it's not material. However, it's good to be able to do both.

Natural Capital

The sum total of the planet's finite natural resources. Explicitly accounting for natural capital is one way of putting a value on externalities in economic analysis. Natural capital includes the geology, soils, air,  water and all living organisms on Earth. The concept is fairly straightforward. However, putting a monetary value on natural capital is tricky and fraught with disagreement. Nevertheless, when natural capital or ecosystem services are not accounted for, they are essentially open to abuse.

Networking & Collaborating

This is about getting to know people. Getting a job or a business deal are outcomes, but they are  not networking. Helping someone get a leg up or get a job, and taking the time to learn about each other's worlds is networking. Utilizing the skill-sets of different organisations, working together to achieve a common outcome, or collaborating, is a key feature of successful project/programme delivery.

Purpose

A term being used in CSR quite a lot these days to generally convey the notion that people are happier and more engaged in work and life when there is meaning associated with the things that we do. Like most of us, it's not clear if Earl and Randy ever find their purpose, which serves to highlight the notion that the journey is more important than the destination.

Responsibility

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Loosely translated, if all you do in your CSR efforts is philanthropy, but your business model results in harm to people and the environment, you have some hard work ahead of you.

Sustainability

People, Planet, Profit. Triple Bottom Line. If we don't account for the needs of people and the environment, while fostering economic well-being, the planet is not going to sustain life as we know it.

Transparency

An organisation that is meeting its legal requirements to disclose information or highlighting successes is not considered to be a paragon of transparency. Disclosing mistakes, failures and uncomfortable truths when not required to do so, is. It's supposed to be a tad uncomfortable.