Published in: Harvard Business Review
Cited as: Rangan, Kasturi, Lisa Chase, and Sohel Karim. “The truth about CSR.” Harvard Business Review 93, no. 1/2 (2015): 40-49.
CSR, Harvard Business School, USA
Most companies have long practiced some form of corporate social and environmental responsibility with the broad goal, simply, of contributing to the well-being of the communities and society they affect and on which they depend. But there is increasing pressure to dress up CSR as a business discipline and demand that every initiative deliver business results. That is asking too much of CSR and distracts from what must be its main goal: to align a company’s social and environmental activities with its business purpose and values. If in doing so CSR activities mitigate risks, enhance reputation, and contribute to business results, that is all to the good. But for many CSR programs, those outcomes should be a spillover, not their reason for being. This article explains why firms must refocus their CSR activities on this fundamental goal and provides a systematic process for bringing coherence and discipline to CSR strategies.
To understand how companies devise and execute CSR, over the past decade we conducted in-depth interviews with scores of managers, directors, and CEOs who are directly or indirectly responsible for their firms’ CSR strategies, and we have developed more than a dozen case studies on the topic. Most recently we surveyed 142 managers who attended Harvard Business School’s CSR executive education program during the past four years. Our findings were remarkably consistent.