What Is Social Responsibility?
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, ISO 26000, to help organizations assess and address their social responsibilities. ISO 26000-2010: 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
Organizations can achieve sustainability by paying careful attention to their impact on society and the environment. Behaving in a transparent, ethical manner ensures an approach that helps protect the long-term success of society and the environment.
Another tenet of social responsibility is the triple bottom line, also known as "people, planet, and profit." This is the belief 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
Core Subjects and Key Principles of Social Responsibility
- Organizational governance
- Human rights
- Labor practices
- Fair operating practices
- Consumer issues
- Community involvement and development
In addition to the core subjects, ISO 26000 also defines seven key principles of socially responsible behavior:
- Ethical behavior
- Respect for stakeholder interests
- Respect for the rule of law
- Respect for international norms of behavior
- Respect for human rights
Learn more about social responsibility, its aspects, and its applications:
- Social Responsibility Case Studies
- What is Social Responsibility in Business?
- What is the History of Social Responsibility?
- Social Responsibility Resources
Social Responsibility Case Studies
See how organizations around the word are managing their social responsibility efforts and using the ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility. The following resources provide case studies that offer a closer look at just some of the results organizations are achieving.
Pathways to Social Responsibility: Successful Practices for Sustaining the Future—2014 (PDF)
Pathways to Social Responsibility—2013 (PDF)
Pathways to Social Responsibility—2012 (PDF)
Pathways to Social Responsibility—2011 (PDF)
Pathways to Social Responsibility—2010 (PDF)
Pathways to Social Responsibility—2009 (PDF)
ISM Makes the Business Case for Social Responsibility (PDF)
Quality and Social Responsibility: A Key Business Strategy for Enhancing Competitive Position (PDF)
CSR and Quality: A Powerful and Untapped Connection (PDF)
What is Social Responsibility in Business?
Social responsibility in business, also known as corporate social responsibility (CSR), pertains to people and organizations behaving and conducting business ethically and with sensitivity towards social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues. Striving for social responsibility helps individuals, organizations, and governments have a positive impact on development, business, and society.
Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility
Smart business decisions are not just a matter of counting short-term dollars and cents. Wise decision makers consider the future impact of today’s choices on people, on the community, and on customers and their opinions.
While business results, investment, free enterprise, and other traditional economic forces continue to drive industry, organizations’ reputations and their ability to compete effectively around the world depend on them integrating social responsibility efforts into decision making and performance improvement.
ASQ’s Commitment to Social Responsibility
ASQ’s mission is "to increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world." Increasingly, accountability and social responsibility are the expectation of consumers around the globe. To help meet the emerging needs for a sophisticated SR approach, ASQ is committed to delivering the following:
- Providing a contemporary view and understanding of quality
- Identifying new career paths for quality professionals
- Providing methodology to enhance SR professionals’ efforts
- Growing the community of quality stakeholders through SR practitioners
- Helping to communicate the value of SR
Read more about ASQ's integration of quality and social responsibility for business success:
Seeking Sustainable Success: ASQ Integrates Quality and Social Responsibility (PDF)
Embracing quality as essential to best practices can enhance efforts to promote mission fulfillment, socially responsible profitability, and economic growth that contributes to global competitiveness.
Integrating Social Responsibility With Business Strategy: A Guide for Quality Professional (PDF)
This guide introduces a step-by-step approach for applying quality skills to the SR needs of organizations. It defines integrated SR, provides talking points and case studies, and maps out a process for using quality to integrate SR into organizational strategy and daily operations.
What is the History of Social Responsibility?
In a modern context, the history of social responsibility can be traced to a now infamous article by Milton Friedman published in 1970. In the New York Times, this Nobel-Prize-winning economist wrote that social responsibility is a "fundamentally subversive doctrine in a free society.” He believed that the only responsibility that a corporation has is to the shareholder.
A counterpoint to Friedman’s perspective comes from John Elkington in Cannibals with Forks in 1999. Elkington introduced the concept of the "triple bottom line," making the case that concern for society and the environment can coexist with an ambition for profits.
- End the practice of awarding business on price alone
- Drive out fear
Since these early debates and transformative moments, social responsibility has gained traction and credibility. Trends have moved from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, to sustainable development, to sustainability, to social responsibility (SR).
The Connection Between Social Responsibility and Quality
It is important for quality professionals to understand the history of social responsibility; there are many similarities to the quality movement.
In the early days of quality there were debates about quality costs and everyone’s responsibility to quality as opposed to end-of-the-line inspection. The social responsibility movement started with debates about a corporation having any responsibility to society. It is now recognized that people, planet, and profit are mutually inclusive. Just as quality leads to profit, responsibility leads to sustainable profit.
Quality ideals such as those promoted by W. Edwards Deming in his 14 Points and Genichi Taguchi's quality loss function apply to social responsibility. Sustainability is an ideal state, as is quality an ideal state. The aims and ideals of social responsibility, as a path to sustainability, make SR a natural and progressive extension of the quality practitioner’s professional competency.
Corporate Social Responsibility (Quality Progress) An exploration of CSR, quality's foundation in ethics, and how CSR can be advanced more rapidly if it is incorporated into established quality management models and methodologies.
Living Responsibly—A Quality Role Model (PDF) This article defines and celebrates Spencer Hutchens’ contribution to the operational definition of a theory for social responsibility, demonstrating how he had consciously put his theory into practice.
"A Friedman doctrine: The Social responsibility of business is to increase its profits" (Milton Friedman, The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970)
"Historical Background of Corporate Social Responsibility" (Rosamaria C. Moura‐Leite and Robert C. Padgett, Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 7, issue 4) In order to understand CSR's impact on organization behavior, it is necessary to comprehend its progression. This paper traces the conceptual evolution of CSR.