Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) looks backwards, reporting on what a business has done, typically in the last 12 months, to make a contribution to society.
Sustainability looks forward, planning the changes a business might make to secure its future (reducing waste, assuring supply chains, developing new markets, building its brand).
CSR tends to target opinion formers – politicians, pressure groups, media.
Sustainability targets the whole value chain – from suppliers to operations to partners to end-consumers.
CSR is becoming about compliance.
Sustainability is about business.
CSR gets managed by communications teams.
Sustainability by operations and marketing.
CSR investment is rewarded by politicians.
Sustainability investment is rewarded by the City (‘Finally, we provide evidence that High Sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance’).
CSR is driven by the need to protect reputations in developed markets.
Sustainability is driven by the need to create opportunities in emerging markets.
I’m certain you’ll not agree with all of these, and equally certain there are more. Would love to hear your views.
Image credit: Oliver Wendel