Social responsibility is the theory that every entity has a duty towards the common good of society at large, in order to maintain a balance between economy and ecology. This responsibility can be at an individual or organizational level, but the idea is to give as much good back to the world that we live in, as we take from it.
Economic development has always been seen as a trade-off between sustaining the world we live in and improving the economic climate, more so in urban societies where commerce seems to override the health of the environment. However, this need not be the case. With social responsibility, we can find ways of sustaining a balance between the two by either not engaging in acts that are harmful to the environment (passive) or working towards the advancement of social goals (active).
Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR refers to the efforts of a profit-making organization or business establishment, in the area of social betterment. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defined CSR in one of it’s publications, as “… the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large”. It is often argued that CSR comes directly in the way of an establishment’s fundamental role of economic growth and profit making. However, it is clear that economic growth can only take us so far in a world where human, animal and environmental welfare takes a backseat. CSR is now a vital organ in the machinery of most established organizations the world over.
Similarly, Student Social Responsibility (SSR) and Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) are also viewed to hold both positive and negative repercussions to a society. Should an individual focus on self-interest alone or the larger interests of the community? Should a student concentrate on succeeding purely in academic pursuits, or does he or she benefit from being involved in the welfare of the society? The answer is simple: there is no individual gain when the community suffers; the fruits of one’s academic excellence hold no value when a society isn’t functioning optimally.
To this end, it is up to the individual or the organization to choose an area of social responsibility that they believe they are most suited to contribute towards. A good example of best practices in social responsibility and sustainability comes from Levi Strauss. The company came under fire from Greenpeace for its clean water practices at some of its manufacturing plants in Mexico. Levi’s made an open pledge on its site to work towards this weakness. By re-thinking water consumption at every stage of production, the company now has a new line of jeans, which uses up to 96% less water during the production cycle.