Glossary and Definitions of Main CSR Terms

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Corporate Sustainability

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility is a process that is concerned with treating the stakeholders of a company or institution ethically or in a responsible manner. ‘Ethically or responsible’ means treating key stakeholders in a manner deemed acceptable according to international norms.
  2. Social includes economic, financial and environmental responsibility. Stakeholders exist both within a firm or institution and outside and includes at least an organization’s leaders, staff, shareholders and suppliers as well as the consumers and users of their public goods and services.  It will also include media, Government and the wider society.
  3. The wider aim of social responsibility is to create higher and higher standards of sustainable living, while preserving the profitability of the corporation or the integrity of the institution, for peoples both within and outside these entities.  The key is how profits are made, not the pursuit of profits at any cost.
  4. CSR is a process to achieve sustainable development in societies.  Both CSR and Sustainability address multi-stakeholders and their materiality.  Thus CSR and Sustainability are interchangeable concepts.
  5. Corporate means any body private, public or NGO [our definition applies neatly outside the traditional private corporate sphere]
  6. There must be a business case for working with stakeholders.  These include the wider society and, as such, being a responsible company or institutions means working in partnership with society and being part of its long-term development.

Original Source: Michael Hopkins: A Planetary Bargain: Corporate Social Responsibility Comes of Age (Macmillan, 1998; updated and re-printed by Earthscan, 2003) and also re-printed in Michael Hopkins: CSR/Sustainability – From the Margins to the Mainstream‘A Text Book’ Greenleaf, UK, 2016). Updated Jan 1st 2017 with clause 6 with thanks to Siemens and also Bob Munro for edits.

AccountAbility 1000 (AA1000 ): is a process standard to assist an organisation in the definition of goals and targets, the measurement of progress made against these targets, the auditing and reporting of performance, and feedback mechanisms. MHCi staff participated in the setting up of the background to AA1000 and is still actively involved.

Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) Business-driven initiative to improve working conditions in a sustainable manner through a collaborative effort of companies. Offers companies a comprehensive monitoring and qualification system covering all products sourced from any country.

Corporate Citizenship (CC): is about business taking greater account of its social and environmental – as well as its financial – footprints. Source: Simon Zadek The Civil Corporation, (p7, Earthscan, London, 2001)

Corporate Governance (CG): Corporate Governance is concerned with holding the balance between economic and social goals and between individual and communal goals. The corporate governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for the stewardship of those resources. The aim is to align as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, corporations and society” Source: Sir Adrian Cadbury in ‘Global Corporate Governance Forum’, World Bank, 2000)

Corporate Social Investment (CSI): is the investment in development projects in emerging markets by companies that may, or may not be, directly relevant to the company’s bottom line

Corporate Sustainability: we don’t differ between CSR and Sustainability.  The latter term was originally only applied to environmental considerations.  Today sustainability now takes a multi-stakeholder approach across social, economic, environmental, finance and governance issues – exactly the same as CSR.

Ethics: the science of morals in human conduct. Source: Oxford Dictionary

Ethical Accounting: is the process through which the company takes up a dialogue with major stakeholders to report on past activities with a view to shaping future ones. Source: John Rosthorn: Business Ethics Auditing – More than a Stakeholder’s Toy (Journal of Business Ethics 00: 1-11, 2000, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands)

Ethical Auditing: is regular, complete and documented measurements of compliance with the company’s published policies & procedures.  Source: John Rosthorn, ibid.

Ethical Book-Keeping: is systematic, reliable maintaining of accessible records for corporate activities which reflect on its conduct and behaviour. Source: JR, ibid.

Fair Labour Association (FLA ): An organization that uses ILO core labour standards to evaluate fair labour practices in company supply chains

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a network-based organization that produces a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework that is widely used around the world. GRI is committed to the Framework’s continuous improvement and application worldwide. GRI’s core goals include the mainstreaming of disclosure on environmental, social and governance performance.

International Standards Organisation (ISO ): ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. It developed the non-binding standard for CSR known as ISO26000.

International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL ): The ISEAL Alliance is a, or the, global hub for social and environmental standards systems. ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice are international reference documents for credible social and environmental standards. Compliance is a membership condition.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): A reduced set of measures or indicators that purport to show the most important aspects of the body being measures.

Public Private Partnerships (PPP): Partnerships between private companies and public bodies in a joint venture to perform projects and programmers for the public good.

Reputation Assurance: A number of common global principles for the business environment assembled to provide quantitative and trend information. (JR, ibid.)

Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX): A US law that imposes standards on conflict of interest, and greater transparency of reporting of companies

Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000 ): An international standard for human rights in the industrial setting set up by CEPAA (now SAI) in the USA. MHCi provided comments and suggestions in the early days of SA8000.

Social Reporting: Non-financial data covering staff issues, community economic developments, stakeholder involvement and can include voluntarism and environmental performance.

Socially Responsible Investment (SRI): Investment in socially responsible activities normally by an investment fund.

Sustainable Development:Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs as defined by the UN sponsored report on Our Common Future chaired by Gro Brundtland.

United Nations Initiatives: The UN has been very active in recent years to involve corporations in development. The most well known is the UN Global Compact a set of ten principles that companies can voluntary sign up to. Less well known but one of the oldest is the ILO‘s Multi-national declaration of principles that companies are asked to sign. Growing in prominence are a set of financial principles for socially responsible investment that has been sponsored byUNEP and known as UNEPFI.

Comments and suggestions: We would be really pleased if you had any better ideas (not difficult!) suggestions, references, other definitions that we could use. Please just send us an E-mail