There is little question that corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability are of growing interest to businesses and investors. In 2011, just under 20% of S&P 500 companies published a sustainability or CSR report. By 2013, just two years later, that number had grown to 72%. However, in spite of this increased focus, many companies struggle to integrate their CSR efforts into their core mission, strategy, business model and products/services. They also face the challenge of communicating the nature and impact of their CSR initiatives to an often-skeptical audience of employees, customers, investors and even environmental/social activists.
At the root of these issues is the conflict — real or imagined — between CSR activities and the holy grail of corporate management: shareholder value. This article examines the factors behind this conflict and suggests ways CSR and shareholder value can be reconciled.