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This website is dedicated to supporting learning and knowledge development in the field of corporate responsibility and strategic management. The focus is on the 4CR framework which has been designed to integrate the various strands of corporate responsibility and to support their integration in strategic management and mainstream business operation.

The 4CR strategic  approach to corporate responsibility 

                 A multi dimensional view of corporate responsibility

Corporate responsibility concepts and principles

In market economies, the primary purpose of companies is to maximise shareholder value (e.g. economic profit, share price and dividends) bound by legal/regulatory obligations which address specific social and environmental issues. For this, companies pursue competitive strategies which rely upon and develop relationships between the corporation and its stakeholders.  

Since the early 1990’s, corporate responsibility issues including the social obligations of corporations have attained prominence in political and business debate. This is mainly in response to corporate scandals but also due to the realisation that development centred only on economic growth paradigms is unsustainable and therefore there is a need for a more pro-active role by states, companies and communities in a development process aimed at balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability and social cohesion.
This debate has motivated the following three interlinked movements in the corporate world:
  ·     CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility);
  ·     Corporate sustainability;
  ·     World wide reforms on corporate governance.

CSR and corporate sustainability represent the way companies achieve enhanced ethical standards and a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives addressing the concerns and expectations of their stakeholders. Corporate governance reflects the way companies address legal responsibilities and therefore provides the foundations upon which CSR and corporate sustainability practices can be built to enhance responsible business operations.  

We distinguish between two interrelated dimensions for CSR and corporate sustainability:
  ·    corporate responsibility and sustainability as part of a new vision for the world 
      based on a
global partnership for sustainable development;
  ·    corporate responsibility and sustainability as a business management approach
     that should provide in the long run better value for shareholders as well as for
     other stakeholders. 

Early roots of corporate social responsibility can be found in the actual business practices of successful companies and early theoretical views in the 1950s and 60s linked corporate social obligation to the power that business holds in society. Theoretical developments are currently broadly subdivided into the ethical and accountability issues and the stakeholder approaches to strategic management.  

The corporate responsibility movement is backed by UN initiatives such as the Global Compact and the Millennium Goals which have defined the goal and principles for responsible corporate behaviour in the following areas:
  ·     Human Rights
  ·     Labour Standards
  ·     Environment
  ·     Health
  ·     Anti-Corruption
  ·     Economic responsibility

Key driving forces include investor and consumer demands and governmental and public pressure. Particularly important is the support from Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). The corporate responsibility movement is now entering a mainstreaming phase aided by standardisation activities such as the GRI, the AA1000 series and the  ISO2600 guide.

Key driving forces include investor and consumer demands and governmental and public pressure. Particularly important is the support from The corporate responsibility movement is now entering a mainstreaming phase aided by standardisation activities such as the GRI, the AA1000 series and the  ISO2600 guide.

CSR, corporate sustainability and corporate governance collectively are shaping the identity of organisations and are therefore increasingly integrated into the business strategy of successful corporations. Consequently, the field of responsible business strategy and practice is becoming one of the most dynamic and challenging subjects corporate leaders are facing today and possibly one of the most important ones for shaping the future of our world.  


Corporate responsibility visionary companies

Theoretical background on corporate responsibility

Corporate responsibility related initiatives

EU CSR and Sustainable Development strategy

Corporate responsibility goals and principles

Global Compact

The Millennium development Goals

Corporate Social Responsibility CSR

Corporate Sustainability

Corporate sustainability challenges

Health related challenges

Environment related challenges

The Climate Change challenge

Human rights related challenges

Global partnership for sustainable development

The role of governments

Sustainable development landmarks

Corporate Governance

Corporate responsibility drivers

The evolution of corporate regulation

Green buying and ‘environmentally friendly products’

Socially Responsible Investment (SRI)

Corporate responsibility and sustainability as business philosophy

CR indicators and reporting standards

Sustainable development indicators

Company level SRI associated indicators

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

The AA1000 Standards

ISO 26000 SR Guideline

The 4CR multi-dimensional corporate responsibility perspective
The 4CR multi-dimensional corporate responsibility perspective is aimed at establishing a coherent approach to addressing the various concepts of corporate responsibility and their integration with strategic management.

The 4CR taxonomy described in the following table highlights four corporate responsibility areas:
  ·       Corporate Competitiveness (CC)
  ·       Corporate Governance (CG)
  ·       CSR
  ·       Corporate Sustainability (CS)


At the centre of the 4CR Corporate Responsibilities Map is stakeholder management which provides the common link between corporate competitiveness and corporate responsibility and sustainability. The key issues in each of the Four Corporate Responsibilities are as follows:

·     Corporate Competitiveness addressed by strategic management is a subject rarely discussed in the context of corporate responsibility. However, unless all strands of corporate responsibility are brought together under a common management framework, CSR and sustainability will remain peripheral activities and their impact is likely to remain well below required levels to achieve the Millennium and related goals.

·     Corporate Governance sets the legal framework to protect a company’s shareholders and stakeholders; the relative emphasis being dependent on national approaches.

·     CSR is aimed at extending the legal requirements promoting ethics, philanthropy and social reporting to satisfy stakeholder concerns.

·     Corporate sustainability focuses on long term economic and social stakeholder expectations both by optimising their sustainability performance and by participating in networks with governments, NGOs and other stakeholders that can provide the capacity for the world’s sustainable development.

The 4CR multi-dimensional CR perspective

The 4CR corporate responsibility taxonomy

Stakeholder approaches

Instrumental stakeholder management

Intrinsic stakeholder commitment

Stakeholder value

Stakeholder classifications

Stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder relationships quality

Social capital

Reputation risks

Social innovation and marketing

Corporate citizenship

Social accountability


Fair globalisation

Performance stability

The 4CR Principles for Stakeholder oriented Strategic management


Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Management Corporate responsibility and sustainability management

Corporate responsibility practice

The CSR and corporate sustainability movements are building an impressive momentum with the support from governments and the investment community through Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and associated corporate sustainability indexes.

There is no doubt that businesses are doing far more than ever before to tackle the sustainability challenge by recognising their social responsibilities, reducing their environmental impacts, guarding against ethical compromises, creating governance transparency and becoming more accountable to their stakeholders.  

However, despite the progress achieved, CSR and corporate sustainability as business practiced approaches are at the infancy stage with relatively few real adopters and questionable impact.

On the positive side, success stories from responsible companies, for example the leading companies in SRI indexes, confirm that outstanding financial performance is not incompatible with good sustainability performance.

The motivations of companies to address corporate responsibly and sustainability varies widely from instrumental approaches using responsible practices as a means of maximising profits to intrinsic approaches committing the company to upholding its values and principles irrespective of the impact on financial performance. The key business drivers are:

a)     strong brand and reputation;

b)     employer of choice;

c)      market position;

d)     trust of the financial markets and increased shareholder value;

e)     new ‘green’ products / services and new markets.

It is becoming clear that leading companies of the future will have missions and strategies to constantly increase shareholder value but as an integral part of those strategies will also recognise and act upon the potential for:
  ·      addressing the interests of a broad range of stakeholders;
  ·      building societal value;
  ·     contributing to coalitions aimed at increasing the capacity for sustainable
      development .

Corporate responsibility and sustainability management framework
As the business case for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability is becoming clearer it is also becoming evident that it could take some time before Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability becomes part of mainstream business practice.

It is widely recognised that implementation of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability requires time to reach maturity and the speed of achieving mainstreaming is dependant on leadership, training and organisational capabilities to integrate CSR and sustainability policies in the overall business strategy and in core operational processes.  

Socially and environmentally responsible behaviour is multisided and is related to all functions, decisions and processes in a company. The width and complexity of the Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability scope makes mainstreaming a change management challenge necessitating carefully planning and possibly long term commitment to developing appropriate capabilities.  

Key challenges in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability management include:

·        managing in an integrated manner the full lifecycle of CRS strategy formulation, implementation, evaluation and evolution incorporating stakeholder participation;

·        aligning responsibility strategy to corporate strategy focusing on:

-      rationalising and harmonising the economic, compliance, ethical, and sustainability dimensions of corporate responsibility and sustainability  in the context of stakeholder requirements;

-      managing non-financial risk, particularly to brand, reputation, local licence to operate and to performance instability as an integral part of corporate sustainability management;

-      integrating eco-design and other sustainability requirements into product and service offerings;

·        managing the sustainability performance optimisation process to continually increase stakeholder satisfaction;

·        developing strategic responsibility and sustainability capabilities;     

We define Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability as a company's verifiable commitment to operating in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner that is transparent and increasingly satisfying to its stakeholders. Stakeholders include investors, customers, employees, business partners, local communities, the environment and society. The emphasis is on transparent and verifiable stakeholder driven  business operation delivering optimised sustainability performance and associated competitive advantage.

Sustainable business operation means addressing the needs of present stakeholders while seeking to protect, support and enhance the human and natural resources that will be needed by future stakeholders.

Corporate responsibility practice

The overall picture of corporate responsibility practice 

Common objectives and motivations of CSR companies

Corporate responsibility and sustainability investment patterns and implementation features

The role of corporate responsibility associations and collaboration networks

Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as ‘brokers’ in collaborative responsibility alliances

Corporate responsibility business models

Corporate responsibility reporting trends

Standards and guides

Corporate responsibility associated benefits

Market surveys

Business success signs

Corporate responsibility around the world

Corporate responsibility  business maturity

CRS Management Conceptual Model

CRS strategy management

Stakeholder engagement

CRS implementation management

Stakeholder oriented performance management

CRS Core practices

Economic responsibility and governance

Human rights and labour standards

Health promotion and communities support

Environmental responsibility

Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Management Life-cycle Reference Model

Strategic Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Capabilities

Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Maturity Model

Maturity assessment

CSR Performance areas

CSR Performance Map.pdf

Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Guides

           The 4CR strategic approach to corporate responsibility
                                                Working Papers

The 4CR framework has been designed to:

i.         integrate the various strands of corporate responsibility (CSR, corporate sustainability and corporate governance);

ii.       provide  a strategic management framework incorporating corporate responsibility;

iii.      support  the staged development of strategic capabilities enabling companies to reach optimised performance.

Part A

A multi-dimensional view of corporate responsibility

Part A is focusing on a multi dimensional view of corporate responsibility presenting concepts, principles, drivers, indicators, stadards and theories associated with corporate responsibility with specific reference to CSR, sustainability and governance. Reference is made to key initiatives such as the Global Compact, the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations Norms on Human Rights and the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization.
Part A also provides an integration framework for corporate responsibility linking corporate competitiveness, corporate social responsibility, corporate sustainability and corporate governance through the concepts of stakeholder relations management and social capital. Related concepts are analysed including reputation risks, social innovation, business ethics, social accountability, eco-efficiency, fair globalisation and performance stability.

4CR A1.5.doc 

4CR A1.5.pdf

Part B

Corporate responsibility and sustainability management

Part B addresses corporate responsibility and sustainability management. First the way companies actually practice corporate responsibility is reviewed outlining typical   business models, reporting trends and expected benefits. This is supplemented by examining the market surveys and corporate responsibility trends around the world.

Part B also presents a management framework emphasising strategy, stakeholder engagement and stakeholder oriented performance management. The framework incorporates generic process models incorporating the principles of stakeholder contribution and satisfaction and the quality of stakeholder relationships. Corporate responsibility and sustainability core practices are outlined under four categories: Economic responsibility and governance; Human rights and labour standards; Health promotion and communities support; Environmental responsibility.

4CR B1.3.doc 4CR B1.3.pdf

Part C

The value, responsiveness and responsibility dimensions of strategic management

Part C provides an integrative view of strategic management incorporating corporate responsibility issues.

In the first part of this paper a cursory review of the evolution of strategic management theories indicates that the key strategic issues for business managers are value, responsiveness and responsibility. Strategic management theories are therefore analysed with respect to value, responsiveness and responsibility criteria and the output is summarised in the 4CR strategic management classification.   

The main theories examined are:
  a.      Industrial organisation / environmental  approaches;
  b.      Resource Based View (RBV) and related theories on core
        competencies and dynamic capabilities;
  c.       Business networking;
  d.      Knowledge view of the firm;
  e.      Corporate responsibility and sustainability
  f.        Stakeholder oriented approaches.

4CR C1.4.doc 4CR C1.4.pdf

Part C

Integrating corporate responsibility principles and stakeholder approaches into mainstream strategy: a stakeholder-oriented & integrative strategic management framework

The paper describes a stakeholder-oriented integrative strategic management framework linking the main strategic management theories across value, responsiveness and responsibility dimensions. A mathematical model is presented describing the synergistic development of advantage-creating knowledge and advantage-creating stakeholder relations in accordance with the criteria of the resource-based theory.

Corporate Responsibility and Strategic Management   Corporate Governance Journal, Special Issue 2007

Outstanding Paper Award Winner for Excellence
Each year the British publishing company Emerald invites each journal's Editorial Team to nominate what they believe has been the "Outstanding Paper" for the previous 12 months. The award winning papers are chosen following consultation amongst the journal's Editorial Team, many of whom are eminent academics or managers. The aforementioned article has been selected as one of the most original and impressive pieces of work the team has seen throughout 2007.

4CR C2.pdf

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