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What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Updated April 2, 2022 . AmFam Team

It’s important to consider a company’s values before deciding to do business with them. Here’s what you need to know about corporate social responsibility.

When you consider doing business with a company, do you think about corporate social responsibility? It’s becoming more and more common for people to consider the values a company holds, the impact they make and the causes they support before deciding to spend their hard-earned money on their product or service. But if you’re thinking to yourself ‘what even is corporate social responsibility? And why does it matter?’ you’re not alone. It’s not so complicated once you break it down, but it is an important concept to understand (and support). So let’s dive in deeper.

Corporate social responsibility definition

Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is a self-regulating business model that holds a company socially accountable. Put more simply, it’s a practice ingrained in the day-to-day operations of a company that encourages them to be more aware of and positively adjust the impact they’re making on their community, the economy and the environment around them. And it can take many forms — philanthropy or volunteer efforts, eco-friendly programs, commitment to ethical sourcing of materials, etc.

Why Does Corporate Social Responsibility Matter?

Companies that have strong corporate social responsibility strategies are typically better corporate citizens. This means they’re better connected to the world around them, and genuinely care about the impact they make.

Think about your values. Do you make an effort to live more sustainably? Do you volunteer, or advocate for underprivileged or marginalized populations? If you’re taking steps to make a positive impact, it’s smart to also support companies that value those same things. Because while you can make small change over time, corporations can drive large-scale change faster. It’s important to hold corporations accountable for leading real social, environmental and economic change. Look for companies that practice business ethics and social responsibility, and avoid those who don’t.

Examples of Socially Responsible Corporations

Every business has a different corporate social responsibility plan. Some focus more on sustainable sourcing and environmentally sound production, while others might promote economic and workplace equality. Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of organizations doing great things. Take these, for example:


While Starbucks is committed to ethically and sustainably sourcing their coffee, they’re also focused on supporting their communities and creating career opportunities. Take a look (Opens in a new tab) at some of the great things they’re doing.

Ben & Jerry’s

There’s one thing Ben & Jerry’s serves aside from ice cream — social justice. Since they opened their doors in 1978, corporate social responsibility has been a cornerstone to their culture. From the products they produce to the causes they support, they’re committed to using their platform to make the world a better place. And it shows in everything they do (Opens in a new tab).


As one of the top tech companies in the world, Microsoft aims to empower people through education and access to technology. And from sustainability efforts to their commitment to philanthropy, they take corporate social responsibility to the next level. Learn more (Opens in a new tab) about how they’re driving real change.


Primarily focused on reducing their environmental footprint, Aveda (Opens in a new tab)was the first beauty company to use recycled materials for their packaging. They also produce their product responsibly, using naturally derived ingredients and cruelty-free testing.


This entertainment giant doesn’t take their position in our culture lightly. Although they have a lot of great corporate social and environmental responsibility programs in place, one of their greatest impacts comes through volunteerism. They encourage employees to participate in their VoluntEARS (Opens in a new tab) program, and partner with Make-A-Wish to fulfill thousands of wishes to children battling life-threatening illnesses every year.

Levi Strauss & Co.

Did you know it can take up to 2,000 gallons of water to produce a single pair of jeans? While a lot of clothing manufacturers aren’t doing anything about that, Levi Strauss & Co. (Opens in a new tab) makes a point to reduce the amount of water they use, building a more sustainable future for our planet. They also have a robust history of standing up for social causes like marriage equality. And, through their Levi Strauss Foundation (Opens in a new tab), have taken action to help solve the HIV/Aids epidemic.

American Family Insurance

At American Family Insurance, we firmly believe in the dreams of our customers, our employees and the communities we serve — and we’re committed to protecting their future. Through our community give-back efforts, commitment to diversity and innovative approach to environmental sustainability, we work hard every day to positively impact the world around us, so we can empower you to keep dreaming towards what’s next. Take a look at some of the exciting things we’re doing!

What Can You Do?

As a consumer, you have more power than you’d think. While the world is full of exceptional companies that’re committed to the greater good, there are still some that put profit and productivity above all else. It’s up to you to do some research and create a list of the brands you’d prefer to do business with based on their corporate social responsibility efforts. By spending your money wisely, you’ll play a role in making our world a better place.

And if you're looking for ways to better the environment or your community you on your own, we have you covered. Check out these social impact resources to make a difference.

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