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"Corporate social responsibility: Redefining the agenda?"
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"Corporate social responsibility: Redefining the agenda?"

For a company to put corporate social responsibility principles into practice, they need to look at their social, economic and environmental obligations to the local and broader community, writes Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Brisbane, Australia.

On an average day at work, I was notified that my employer was seeking to take the ‘road now trodden’ and begin a corporate social responsibility program.

For other young and perhaps idealistic employees, the idea of corporate social responsibility had our full attention.

In the usual drive for baseline profits, could it be that a social conscience is emerging in the Australian corporate sector?

Now a phenomenon in its own right, corporate social responsibility is seeking a place on the corporate agenda and for many young Australian jobseekers, a company’s corporate social responsibility practices may be a contributing factor to its employment appeal.

More importantly, the emergence of corporate social responsibility has provided Australian business with an added dimension of activity; one based on ethics and sustainability.

At a first glance, corporate social responsibility refers to the commitment by business to contribute to economic development and local community well-being. In short, it requires a company to ‘get ethical’. It all sounds pretty good in theory, but what does it mean for a company to foster corporate social responsibility as part of their core business? This is exactly what bodies such as the ACCSR (Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility) seek to define.

For a company to put corporate social responsibility principles into practice, they need to look at their social, economic and environmental obligations to the local and broader community.

Within Australia, supermarket chain giant ‘Woolworths’ has proved that not only are they the ‘fresh food people’, but they are environmentally friendly people as well. The creation of their now famous ‘greenbag’ has served as a sustainable alternative to plastic bags, giving them bonus points for environmentally sound practices.

Smaller companies have also taken up the corporate social responsibility challenge, many of them offering staff with opportunities to become involved with a charity or volunteer project.

Could corporate social responsibility also play into the financial success of a business? This too is a question up for debate in the Australian corporate sector. In terms of employee recruitment and retention, the existence of a corporate social responsibility program has been known to improve the staff retention capabilities of a company. From a marketing positioning and reputation management perspective as well, a business with its ‘ethics’ on public display can set it apart from competitors.

Now 12-months on since the inception of a corporate social responsibility program, perhaps my employer will cite this particular business decision as his most successful one yet. Let’s get real: when it comes to ethics, the profits will look good on any spreadsheet statement.

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About me:

“I’m a student based in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently in my final year of undergraduate study at the University of Queensland, studying Development, Journalism and International Relations and will be commencing a Masters of International Studies in 2012.

“Aside from my study commitments, I lead a hectic life! I’m passionate about aid and development and am involved with World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’. I also work part time in the travel industry (which might explain my love of travel) and when I have spare time, you can find me playing my piano.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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