Corporate Sustainability is not just CSR

By Shweta Bapat

We get everything from planet earth what we need, but if we keep on consuming without preserving and replenishing the resources for future, one day we will face the problem of sustainability. Sustainability is the ability to sustain.

Corporate sustainability is a comprehensive approach of the organisation that creates continuing economic, environmental as well as societal value. A business that makes minimal negative impact on the environment, economy, and community can be called as sustainable business. While maintaining profitability of business an organization that contribute to environmental friendly activities to ensure that all processes adequately address current environmental concerns can be termed as environmentally responsible business.

A business that takes care of the society in which it operates can be called as socially responsible business. But environment or society is not the only element that makes business sustainable. Economic development, environmental protection and social development are the three pillars of corporate sustainability.

Sustainability is frequently confused with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The existence of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility can be traced from a longer period than the concept of corporate sustainability. Earlier CSR was interpreted as philanthropy only, but now it is understood that it’s not just about charity but much more than that. Still CSR is not sustainability but it is just a part of corporate sustainability and indeed a very important part of it.

There are various differences between CSR and Sustainability following are few important differences. It starts with the vision itself. CSR is a backward looking; it evaluates the performance of the business in the recent past and reports about the initiatives taken to minimise the negative effect, whereas sustainability is forward looking; it plans to secure future by preserving the resources. CSR has limited stakeholders but sustainability needs to take in to consideration all the stakeholders. CSR is driven by the need of the society and sustainability is driven by the need of business to create opportunities in future.

As per triple bottom line approach businesses need to pay attention towards 3 Ps Profit, People, Planet to ensure long term sustainability. Corporate sustainability is an approach that constructs long-standing stakeholder value through the implementation of sustainable business strategies and strategic business decisions that considers every dimension of business in the ethical, social, environmental and economic spheres. Every business recognises profitability and growth as important aspects of businesses.

Corporate sustainability is not just about running the profitable business and growing it, but it recognises the need of businesses to pursue societal and environmental goals as well. It is possible through effective resource management system throughout the supply chain of the business and by converting risks in to opportunities through proper risk management system.

Many elements from sustainable development, CSR, corporate accountability etc. are borrowed by this concept. Organisations are responsible for Economic, Social and Environmental impact made by their business operations. Aligning the interest of the organisation with interest of stakeholders can lead towards corporate sustainability.  Therefore corporate sustainability refers to doing business that will benefit rather than harming society and environment.

(About the Author: Mrs. Shweta Bapat, HoD Human Resource Management, Kaveri College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Pune)

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