Social Responsibility in Business: Meaning, Types, and Examples


Social responsibility in business involves actions that benefit society and the environment while pursuing profitability. Companies embracing social responsibility engage in ethical practices, promote volunteering, and support philanthropic efforts. Consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are prioritizing socially responsible businesses. This article explores the concept of social responsibility, its importance, types, and examples of companies integrating it into their operations.

Understanding social responsibility in business

Social responsibility means businesses must act for the greater good, not just profits. Beyond shareholder value, companies are accountable to society and the environment. This has gained significance as consumers seek ethically driven businesses. While critics argue against mixing business and societal concerns, younger generations are advocating for responsible practices, driving a transformative shift.

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) extends social responsibility to businesses. It calls for an ethical balance between profitability and societal well-being. This includes commission (philanthropy) and omission (environmental policies). CSR can benefit both society and a company’s bottom line.

The four types of social responsibility

Companies achieve social responsibility through philanthropy, volunteering, ethical labor practices, and environmental changes. Reducing carbon footprint, fair employee wages, and responsible sourcing are key facets. Maintaining this balance is crucial for operational efficiency and effectiveness.

The debate: corporate social responsibility

Economist Milton Friedman opposed business social conscience, emphasizing profit. However, times have changed. Social responsibility is more mainstream, particularly among millennials and Gen Z. They drive change both as consumers and within workplaces, urging businesses to prioritize societal and environmental welfare.

Examples of social responsibility in action

Social responsibility takes various forms across industries and companies:

Here are some exemplary cases of socially responsible corporations.

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX)
  • Commits to sustainability and community welfare.
  • Purchases Fair Trade Certified ingredients.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc.
  • Integrates social responsibility into core operations.
  • Supports sustainable farming and Fair Trade Certified ingredients.
The Lego Group
  • Commits to reducing carbon impact.
  • Recognized by World Wildlife Fund as a Climate Savers Partner. Inc. (CRM)
  • Follows the 1-1-1 model, dedicating equity, product, and employee time to the community.
Target Corp. (TGT)
  • Donates to communities, including education grants.
  • Engages in social responsibility programs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – social responsibility

What is social responsibility in business?

Social responsibility in business refers to a company’s commitment to operate in ways that benefit society and the environment while pursuing profitability.

Why is social responsibility important?

Social responsibility is crucial for fostering positive relationships with consumers, employees, and the community. It can enhance a company’s brand, attract socially conscious investors, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

How can companies practice social responsibility?

Companies can practice social responsibility by adopting policies that promote ethical labor practices, reducing environmental impact, supporting charitable causes, and encouraging employee volunteering.

What are the benefits of social responsibility for businesses?

Socially responsible businesses can improve their brand reputation, attract loyal customers, increase employee engagement, and contribute to positive societal and environmental outcomes.

Are there any criticisms of corporate social responsibility?

Yes, some critics argue that businesses should focus solely on profits and leave social and environmental concerns to government and non-profit organizations. Economist Milton Friedman famously criticized the concept.

How do consumers influence social responsibility?

Consumers play a significant role by supporting socially responsible businesses through their purchasing decisions. They can influence companies to adopt more responsible practices and hold them accountable.

Is social responsibility mandatory?

Social responsibility is not always legally mandated, but it is increasingly becoming an expectation from consumers, investors, and stakeholders. Some countries have introduced regulations related to environmental and social practices.

What role do younger generations play in promoting social responsibility?

Youthful generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, are driving the demand for socially responsible businesses. They are advocating for change both as consumers and employees, influencing companies to prioritize ethical practices.

Key takeaways

  • Social responsibility blends business profitability with societal well-being.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seeks an ethical balance between profitability and societal benefit.
  • Companies practice social responsibility through philanthropy, volunteering, ethical labor practices, and environmental efforts.
  • Examples of socially responsible companies include Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, The Lego Group,, and Target.
  • Consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are driving the demand for socially responsible businesses.
  • Social responsibility benefits society, the environment, and a company’s bottom line.
View Article Sources
  1. What Is Corporate Social Responsibility? 4 Types – HBS Online
  2. The concept of corporate social responsibility –
  3. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) –