Sustainability vs. CSR: What's Best for You?
By Michelle Millar Assistant Professor Hospitality Management, University of San Francisco | May 05, 2013
There is a continued buzz about sustainability in the industry and many hotel companies already incorporate it into their mission and daily operations. Each hotel company also defines sustainability to best fit with their mission and overall corporate objectives, and that definition often, but not always, encompasses aspects that relate to people, profit, and plant.
Yet other companies may incorporate sustainability under another term called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Sustainability may only be one aspect of CSR, with other aspects centered on ethics, for example, employee relations, and/or mission-driven goals. CSR is often used, as more of an umbrella term that highlights all that a company does that is "good". One term is not necessarily better than the other, and there is often confusion over how CSR actually differs from sustainability. Which philosophy a company adopts will depend upon that company and what is most suitable for them.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been around since the 1950's and has been referred to a number of different ways (e.g., Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Accountability, Corporate Ethics, Corporate Citizenship, Corporate sustainability, and Responsible Business). Corporate social responsibility according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is, "the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the work force and their families as well as a local community and society at large".
There is no mention of environmental stewardship. Some may also say that CSR devotes itself more to the community activities that are non-economic factors, in addition to economic factors, whereas sustainability is more about protecting the corporation's impact on the environment and the environment's impact on the corporation
Another definition of CSR that also does not incorporate the environment is the most often cited definition in academic literature. In 1979 Carroll proposed that: "the social responsibility of business encompasses the economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary expectations that society has of organizations at a given point in time". Many scholars tried to define the term in the early 1970's and 1980's, but still no single definition rose to the top, nor did one uniform definition truly resonate with everyone.
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