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Saturday, January 9, 2010

CSR and Corporate Sustainability - What's the Diff?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Sustainability are terms that are often used interchangeably. There is no generally accepted definition of either CSR or Corporate Sustainability. In my view the terms are essentially synonymous, with the only real difference being the perspective that each term implies.

Corporate Sustainability simply describes the capacity of a business to endure over time and extend its status quo into the future, within the context of societal expectations. In this respect, Corporate Sustainability is a concept viewed from an internal perspective, that is to say internal to the firm or organization that seeks to be sustainable.

CSR on the other hand is viewed from an external perspective, in particular from the perspective of a stakeholder evaluating the conduct of a business organization. CSR pertains to the expectations and obligations that such a business organization must meet in order to be considered "legitimate" by such stakeholders. Legitimacy is, according to the theory of CSR/Sustainability, required for a business to be sustainable.

Corporate Sustainability strategies therefore can be seen to respond to CSR expectations. It is in this way that the two concepts are linked. The meaning of the two terms are essentially synonymous, with the salient difference being the perspective from which they are considered.

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