Digitization and the internet have brought greater access and sharing of information not only by companies but also by consumers. On the one hand, this opportunity has brought a greater possibility of B2C communication and, on the other hand, it makes consumers more informed and, consequently, more demanding with what they choose.

At a time when, and according to the Global Footprint Network , humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 planets Earth, there are actions and themes that are increasingly important not only for the internal environment of organizations but also for the environment that surrounds them. .

An example of a current and crucial theme in several areas is Social Responsibility: but what is it? How important is it? Is it related to sustainable development?

What is Social Responsibility?

Despite being a concept that can have several definitions, the European Commission in its Green Paper defines Corporate Social Responsibility as “(…) the voluntary integration of social and environmental concerns by companies in their operations and in their interaction with others interested parts.".

This European institution also argues that for a company to be socially responsible it is not enough to comply with legal standards as it must also invest in terms of employees, the environment and relationships with interested parties. This fact “(…) also makes it possible to better manage change and reconcile social development and enhanced competitiveness.”

Therefore, when adopting Social Responsibility, companies do not only look at their interests, but also at the interests of their employees, partners, competitors and society in general. Based on this point, Social Responsibility thus has two aspects: external and internal.

Internal Social Responsibility

According to the Green Book, socially and environmentally responsible practices that can internally influence the company's results or work are part of the internal dimension. Including:

  • Human resources management
  • Health and safety at Work
  • Management of the environmental impact and natural resources of the Planet
  • Adapting to change

External Social Responsibility

On the other hand, its external aspect goes beyond the walls that form the space and home of an institution.

This means that it concerns various spheres of society and various agents worldwide, as we are in a time of globalization and digitalization that give the feeling that borders do not exist. In other words, external Social Responsibility must take into account:

  • Human rights
  • Local communities
  • Commercial partners, consumers and suppliers
  • Environmental concerns on a global level

And what is its importance?

At a time when brands and companies are increasingly faced with digitalization and, consequently, more competitiveness between them, it is important to talk about younger generations.

According to a 2015 Nielsen study, Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) are willing to pay more for more sustainable choices. The generation that succeeds it, Generation Z, also argues that it prefers to pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies with a percentage of 72%.

Business Insider also carried out a study to try to understand what are the most sustainable practices for a group of American Millennials when purchasing a product: around 21% mentioned Social Responsibility and the majority responded that they take into account whether the product is sustainable .

In this way, the impact of Social Responsibility is already beginning to be felt among the younger generations – who are the future. In addition to these growing consumer concerns and expectations, there are several other factors that the European Commission reveals that motivate this adoption of Social Responsibility:

  • Social criteria that influence individual and institutional decisions
  • Concern about the consequences of economic activities on the environment
  • Transparency generated in company activities by the media and digital media

The Institute of Marketing Research argues that the focus of companies is no longer purely economic as Social Responsibility can have several advantages for all parties involved. In practical terms, these could be the benefits:

  • Increases brand recognition
  • Allows you to increase business volume, as well as sales and the number of customers
  • Improves relationships with employees, suppliers and partners
  • Provides an advantage over competing institutions
  • Has a positive impact on the world and the environment

The European Commission also argues that “conversely, criticism directed at a company's practices may sometimes have a negative effect on its reputation, affecting fundamental assets - its brands and image.”

Is social responsibility linked to sustainable development?

The fact that Social Responsibility makes this connection between the economic, social and environmental aspects makes sustainable development the target of attention for implementation by companies.

“Companies are agents that disseminate sustainable development and, on the other hand, they need to be in harmony with good management practices aimed at sustainability.”, highlights Andreia Fontes in her Dissertation on “Corporate Social Responsibility: Reality or Utopia” .

This environmental dimension is becoming increasingly important not only for preserving finite resources and reducing the impact of their use and transformation, but also for preserving a healthy planet for future generations.

Andreia Fontes says that “the internalization of the concepts of environment and sustainability in companies is carried out through the implementation and communication of the environmental policy to all its employees and through the inclusion of environmental protection measures in their plans and budgets.”