What is CSR?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is about enterprises being responsible for society beyond just making profits.
It involves taking into account the social and environmental impacts of business decisions and acting in a way that is ethical and sustainable.
“The business of business is not just about making money. It is also about improving the lives of people and communities and preserving our planet.” – Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Grameen Bank.
In Japan, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are becoming more aware of how important CSR is to their success.
CSR in Japan in the 21st Century
Many Japanese companies, like Ricoh Co. and Sony Corp., began institutionalizing CSR in 2003 by creating CSR departments. This event marks the beginning of corporate social responsibility in Japan.
CSR is widely implemented in Japanese businesses, with many of them having begun doing so as early as 2005 or 2006. Japanese businesses often publicly share their CSR activities and performance through their corporate website and detailed CSR reports. This reflects the importance of transparency and accountability in the CSR landscape in Japan. However, Japan’s business sector lacked a universal standard for measuring CSR excellence until ISO26000 was introduced in 2010.
Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) have spearheaded the Japanese CSR policies and guidelines. These policies and guidelines help businesses improve their CSR performance and align with internationally recognized standards. Their goal – is to improve the overall CSR performance of Japanese businesses.
Japanese SMEs have been disorganizedly engaging in social responsibility initiatives based on these policy principles and the participation of local communities and other stakeholders.
Why do SMEs need CSR?
Environmentally and Socially Conscious Customers
The Japanese market is increasingly looking for companies that share their values. This means that SMEs demonstrating their commitment to CSR are more likely to win customers’ loyalty and build a positive reputation.
Can Attract and Keep Top Talent
Many professionals are actively looking for companies that share their values and do good things for society and the environment. By demonstrating a commitment to CSR, SMEs can differentiate themselves in a competitive job market and attract top talent.
How to Start CSR?
1. Adopt eco-friendly practices: This includes reducing energy and water usage, using recycled materials, and investing in renewable energy. This not only helps reduce the company’s environmental footprint but can also lead to cost savings and increased efficiency.
2. Support charities and engage in philanthropic activities: Demonstrate commitment to CSR by donating profits, volunteering time and resources, and supporting causes that align with company values.
3. Be transparent about business practices and be open to stakeholder feedback: Transparency about supply chain practices, engaging discussion with stakeholders, and responsiveness to their concerns are some ways to do this.
4. Engage with industry groups and organizations that promote CSR: Achieve improving your company’s CSR by joining industry associations or certification programs that promote sustainable practices. One example is the Global Reporting Initiative or the United Nations Global Compact.
Check out “Corporate social responsibility performance of small and medium enterprises in regional Japan: an empirical examination“, for more info.
"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:
CSR involves businesses considering their actions’ social and environmental impacts and acting ethically and sustainably beyond maximizing profits. It is about companies being responsible for society as a whole.