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Sport and corporate social responsibility

Copyrights: unido.org

Sport and corporate social responsibility

The first in our ‘Sport and CSR’ series: what constitutes social responsibility and how has the sector changed in recent decades?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) encourages companies to be more aware of their impact on society. Its focus can be wide ranging, addressing issues such as education, health, gender inequalities and the environment.

Academic discourse often refers back to Archie Carroll’s ‘Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility’. In this business model, the economic and legal responsibilities of corporate entities take prominence. After achieving business goals and targets, the organisation looks at ethical and philanthropic responsibilities.

At this point clarity emerges over how and why CSR programmes are developed. An organisation recognises its responsibility to the area in which it is located and the community it serves through jobs and other investments.

The emergence of CSR has coincided with   a neoliberal shift in many western countries. The state is reducing its role in public services and welfare. Governments are spending less and encouraging social enterprise and CSR, placing this responsibility in the hands of the private sector. 

To use the United Kingdom as an example, neoliberal policies were first introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. This policy shift was continued in the 21st Century by Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ and David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Gradually the role of the welfare state has been reduced and the responsibility is passed on to the third and private sectors.

More recently, corporations have been encouraged to look beyond their own communities and also concentrate on the global community. “Corporate global citizenship” has become a buzz term used to describe this process.  According to Foreign Affairs: “It expresses the conviction that companies not only must be engaged with their stakeholders but are themselves stakeholders alongside governments and civil society.”

The concept advocates for the private sector to work on major issues such as climate change, water shortages, infectious diseases, food crises and terrorism. Businesses should partner with NGOs and governments to find solutions to global problems. It is in their interests to do so: markets and profits depend on prosperity and stability. These activities take place alongside traditional, more locally focused CSR work.

The final piece of the CSR jigsaw is that, in the time since CSR emerged, sport has been increasingly used as a vehicle for change. The United Nations recognises the power and potential to use sport to work toward the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). Funding is an ongoing concern for NGOs but CSR programmes can provide financial security.

As well as financial partnerships, collaborating with a big corporation can improve an NGO’s access to networks. Such collaborations may involve the sharing of information, resources or specialists suited to individual sport for development programmes.

As CSR has become more prominent, sport has increasingly been used to address social issues and sport-based NGOs have flourished because of better financing and increased opportunities.

The next article in this series looks at the concept of corporate global citizenship in more detail. 

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - 00:00

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