Non-profit organisations should also have CSR

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A broader collaboration among non-profit organisations and companies often leads the latter to support the causes defended by the former, providing greater support for organisations’ projects and actions and, especially, a greater impact.

Elena López

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Director of Ingeniería Social and president of +Reponsables association.

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In recent years, a growing number of non-profit organisations are developing their own CSR policies, as they have workers of their own, suppliers, and they interact with their socio-economic and environmental surrounding. From this perspective, they need to retain talent, ensure an ethical supply chain, show transparency in their accounting, and consume natural and energy resources in a sustainable manner, for instance, and also explain all of this in an annual report.

CSR started off with the most innovative SMEs and some large corporations, since they needed to improve their brand image and endeavoured to improve their reputation through social and environmental actions. In other cases, the obligation to comply with environmental social or economic regulations was another way for CSR to find its way into business organisations, to control waste disposal, to fight against discrimination or to improve financial information for investors, to name a few.

Despite the origins, CSR has gradually grown to expand beyond complying with legal requirements or isolated public relations actions that were far from the strategic focus of a corporation or its productive processes. Hence, more and more large corporations and SME’s have become convinced that a thorough and comprehensive CSR policy is an investment with a return and helps improving their financial results.

The recent economic crisis –which indeed continues to affect many– shone a light on those businesses with CSR actions merely for aesthetical purposes or that were too superficial, as they had to do away with these actions when every single Euro they invested was examined with care. At the same time, the positive effect was also noticed in companies developing crosscutting and comprehensive CSR, as they continued with this policy convinced of the return it would have, at times when every penny invested was under scrutiny.

Despite these advancements, we have not yet reached the point where CSR is considered a fundamental aspect for all business organisations and not everyone clearly sees the benefits it has for companies. This is also true for non-profit organisations.

It would seem many of these non-profit organisations have yet to go through the process of including CSR among their processes and turn it into an essential part of the organisation, despite the good practices followed by some. Today, there continues to be a bunch of third sector organisations that feel CSR is not for them and is exclusive to corporations, and that they are already socially responsible with the causes they defend.

This last vision does not sufficiently consider that non-profit organisations are also labour organisations that may be doing social good in their fields of action, but not because of this should they ignore all other aspects. It may also come from the idea that corporations and non-profit organisations are on opposite terms, divided by an imaginary wall.

Nevertheless, practice tells us that many third sector organisations have benefited from some business-like practices they have adopted, such as a professionalised management. Another example is corporate volunteering, that I referred to in a previous article and that benefits both the host organisation and the corporation sending a person, and the volunteers themselves.

Furthermore, a broader collaboration among non-profit organisations and companies often leads to the latter supporting the causes defended by the former, providing greater support for organisations’ projects and actions and, especially, a greater impact.

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