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The status of the responsible corporation

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of the culture of enterprise because it takes a certain cultural awareness to understand the external ramification of a company’s actions and to be able to transform the business into something that produces not only profits, but also welfare for the community in which it operates.

In order to better understand CSR, it takes local and industry studies that look at the impact on operations and at the results of CSR efforts. “Responsabilità Sociale d’Impresa. Policy e Pratiche” (Corporate Social Responsibility. Policies and Practice), by the ISFOL, is a work that offers some help in this direction and so is of use to any business leader or manager looking to understand the topic better.

The book is a collection of results from a field study by the ISFOL’s Education Systems & Services unit that looked into the current status of corporate social responsibility in Italy within enterprises of all shapes and sizes and assesses the extent of the CSR crisis. The emphasis of the study is on the education industry, and the text points to a number of significant experiences in Italy, by both multinationals and other major corporations and by smaller enterprises, that were the result of following an intricate, complex system of international guidelines and recommendations in the area of social and environmental management.

After an introduction to CSR theory, the work, which is based on an extensive series of interviews with individual companies and with associations, then examines public social responsibility strategies and the actions of enterprises both large and small.

The first few lines of the conclusion are significant: “As can be seen in this study and in others, senior management of the most advanced Italian businesses and business associations feel that the future of CSR is founded upon ethics, culture, planning and co-responsibility among the various public and private-sector players in an effort to pursue environmental, social and financial sustainability across the generations.” In particular, the fields of CSR in the future will be seen in the engagement of employees, in the environment, and in the protection of consumers, but the study also goes on to underscore that, based on an overview of the many aspects of CSR analysed, the future of corporate social responsibility lies in placing the individual, not just the organisation, as the leading proponents of social innovation within the various CSR efforts. This focus on the individual can be seen in aspects ranging from respecting the fundamental rights of the employees and ensuring high-quality working conditions and style of life to promoting career training and ensuring equal opportunities, even – and, indeed, above all – in times of crisis. The ultimate conclusion of this ISFOL study is that there is ample room for social innovation, and the current crisis has been this even more evident, underscoring the need for and potential of emphasising individual welfare.

Responsabilità Sociale d’Impresa. Policy e Pratiche

Edited by Paola Nicoletti

ISFOL, Rome, 2014