Corporate Social Responsibility: Tracking the Top Trends

As consumers and the constraints of ever-dwindling natural resources pressure companies to make more responsible choices, more companies are incorporating sustainable strategies and adopting more socially responsible practices. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the business practice of pursuing social and environmental gains alongside financial gains. As the push for companies that do good increases, corporations of all sizes are looking for ways to incorporate sustainable practices into their everyday business.


Some of the most popular CSR trends in the area of corporate social responsibility include increased transparency, investment in green technologies, local community and employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

CSR Trend: Increased Transparency

Demands for disclosure for companies to reveal what’s under the hood of their businesses have become commonplace among consumers. This CSR trend is partly in response to heightened regulatory oversight such as the European Union’s noteworthy General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).1 It is also partly a result of the ever-increasing, almost instantaneous availability of (and consumer and shareholder demand for) what was once behind-the-scenes information. As part of a business model that embraces corporate social responsibility, companies are sharing more environmental, social, and governance disclosures.2


Consumers are no longer satisfied with shady business dealings and hidden agendas but are demanding to know more about previously internal matters. For example, even workers at places like Google have openly protested the company’s bid on a cloud computing contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.3 Just as nonprofits are subject to rigorous impact reporting, financial transparency, and accountability, increased transparency is a CSR trend that will only grow in the coming years.


CSR Trend: Green Technology

Gone are the days of rampant resource usage without any accountability or thought toward replenishment. Climate change continues to drive many conversations in the corporate world, and multiple trends in CSR intersect on this topic. As available natural resources are rapidly depleted and our world reaches a tipping point of a 2-degree rise in average temperature, socially responsible companies are investing in green technologies, reducing their reliance on nonrenewable resources, and looking to more sustainable inputs to do business.4


Whether it’s fashion companies looking into alternative fabrics such as eucalyptus or recycled water bottles, producing clean emissions through more rigorous machinery emissions tests, or simply getting certifications like LEED for their buildings, green technology will certainly be a growing trend for businesses looking to enhance their corporate social responsibility.


CSR Trend: Global Companies Acting Locally

Localization is in. Even companies that operate on a global level are recognizing the value of local markets and supply chains. This is not only to reduce carbon emissions that might be associated with transportation or supply chain costs (as creating “greener” businesses is also a rising CSR trend mentioned above) but to tap into local talent and solutions. Many companies that have charitable arms are also prioritizing nonprofit partners that work with local leaders and local talent, rather than “shipping in” cookie-cutter solutions.


Also, CSR initiatives actively attempt to engage in activities that benefit their local communities as well as produce profits for the corporation. Not only are there publicity benefits to be gleaned from getting involved in local communities, but it can also boost employee satisfaction.5 Increasingly, corporations interested in CSR are donating to local nonprofits, funding the construction of things like schools in lower-income neighbourhoods, and becoming engaged with civic issues that affect where they do business. Corporate-sanctioned volunteer events, especially during the holidays, are also an emerging CSR trend that allows employees to volunteer their efforts and make positive contributions with minimal time commitments.


CSR Trend: Diversity and Inclusion

As the issue of economic inequality rises to the forefront of many political debates, so does the issue increasingly press upon corporations. Recognition of inequalities in pay and the economic burdens employees shoulder is an emerging CSR trend. Pay equity between males and females, measuring the difference in income between the highest-paid and the lowest-paid worker at a company, and making sure that there is a diverse staff base have become key priorities of the best companies in the world.6


CSR initiatives such as intentionally recruiting candidates from difficult economic or educational backgrounds ultimately empower local talent, bring diverse voices to the table, and are a trend that’s here to stay.

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