What Is Social Responsibility (SR)?

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Social responsibility is a means of achieving sustainability. Adopting key social responsibility principles such as accountability and transparency can help ensure the long-term viability and success of any organization or system.

In 2010, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published an international standard to help organizations assess and address their social responsibilities. ISO 26000: Guidance on social responsibility defines social responsibility as:

The responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behavior that:

  • Contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society
  • Takes into account the expectations of stakeholders
  • Is in compliance with applicable laws and consistent with international norms of behavior
  • Is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships

It is through careful attention to impacts on society and the environment that organizations achieve sustainability. Behaving in a transparent and ethical way ensures an approach that helps protect the long-term success of society and the environment.

Another key concept of social responsibility is the triple bottom line, also referred to as people, planet, and profit. This is the concept that achieving profit does not require harm to the planet or the exploitation of people. Organizations can profit while also taking care of the planet and people.

The business case for social responsibility and quality

The quality triple bottom line.

Core subjects and key principles

ISO 26000: Guidance on social responsibility identifies seven core social responsibility subjects:

  1. Organizational governance
  2. Human rights
  3. Labor practices
  4. The environment
  5. Fair operating practices
  6. Consumer issues
  7. Community involvement and development 

In addition to the core subjects, ISO 26000 also defines seven key principles of socially responsible behavior:

  1. Accountability
  2. Transparency
  3. Ethical behavior
  4. Respect for stakeholder interests
  5. Respect for the rule of law
  6. Respect for international norms of behavior
  7. Respect for human rights


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