Canadian study: “Social purpose, the end of the continuum of CSR practices of companies”

“Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada: Trends, Barriers and Opportunities” is a study commissioned by the Canadian Government. The study interviewed 32 companies known to have established corporate social responsibility practices. Respondents represented a broad cross-section of Canadian industry, from small business to large multi-national companies. Responses came from a wide range of industries and spanned the country. Interviewees were from public, private and co-operative firms, held mostly senior leadership positions, and managed sustainability or corporate social responsibility portfolios.

One of the main findings of “Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada: Trends, Barriers and Opportunities” is that there is a continuum of CSR practices among the respondents, from a community investment focus, to a CSR strategy, to CSR integration and finally to social purpose.

The report “Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada: Trends, Barriers and Opportunities” reveals a shift in CSR approaches over the past five years from ad hoc, incremental and transactional approaches, to strategic, social purpose-driven and transformational models. CSR is undergoing a transition from “nice to do” drivers to “essential for business success” motivations. Further, several companies did not use CSR terminology and saw it as an out-dated and irrelevant term.

“Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada: Trends, Barriers and Opportunities” also demonstrates that companies are evolving their relationships with their community partners. There appears to be a continuum of practices from grant-based relationships on one end, to embedded models at the other, in which the non-profit operates out of the business. There are a range of motivations for partnering, from it being the right thing to do, to recognizing that the company cannot achieve its social purpose on its own and needs partnerships to foster innovation and achieve success. Companies expect to be involved in more long-term proactive, strategic partnerships in the future, in which they address systemic issues with non-profit organizations and others.

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