CSR is often confused with virtuous behaviour, which the individual is expected to transpose from their private to their professional lives. This is limiting because sustainability is an actual strategy. A company is sustainable when it achieves competitive stability, i.e., it is competitive with fixed returns over time. To achieve this, it must engage with its stakeholders, that is all those parties with which it interacts such as customers, suppliers, employees and institutions. Its relationship with its stakeholders is essential: they must be engaged in creating and sharing value over time. Companies should also consider the medium to long term: for example, curtailing training costs and employee career paths may initially offer savings but the end result may be an unmotivated, ill-prepared team lacking in loyalty to the company. Similarly, speculative product policies that are not very transparent will affect customer retention rates. In short, a sustainable strategy considers the economic and other effects that business decisions have on each stakeholder.
CSR brings benefits that go beyond the economic aspects, the main ones being:
- a better workplace environment, which then attracts more skilled and productive employees;
- lasting relationships with customers, based on their trust in the quality of the product/service on offer and, hence, in the company’s credibility;
- an improved brand image and brand reputation;
- the development of external relations based on trust and the mutual satisfaction of needs;
- a competitive edge as the company is able to create value not just for itself but also for its owners and stakeholders.