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Types of Corporate Social Responsibility

A measure of success in today’s world includes corporate social responsibility. As a leader, you weave corporate social responsibility (CSR) in your company plans. You are thinking about your brand image with respect to CSR. You are thinking about your employees and your company mission. All of these include CSR.

However, you may not be familiar with all the aspects. For that reason, it’s helpful to know the 4 types of CSR.  You may know the overall theme or idea, yet may not know Carroll’s Four Part Model. Therefore, we will be taking a look at Carroll’s pyramid, and what is included in the four types of Corporate Social Responsibility.

What is Carroll’s Four Part Model of Corporate Social Responsibility?

First, Carroll’s pyramid is a framework that helps businesses understand the responsibilities they have to society. The model includes 4 responsibilities: economic, legal, ethical, and finally philanthropic. Understanding this model, and incorporating these responsibilities in your business can make a big difference.

1. Economic Responsibility

First up, economic responsibility. The foundation of the social responsibility pyramid rests on a business’s ability to be profitable. Yes, that’s right! CSR includes the need to be profitable. The economic responsibility creates a balance between the next 3: ethical, legal, and philanthropic responsibilities. A company needs to survive in order to support the community. Economic responsibility is overall a positive. We see the negative side to this layer when a company maximizes profits above all other responsibilities.  

2. Legal Responsibility

The next level of the pyramid is legal responsibility. This defines a company’s responsibility to follow all the laws and regulations that apply to the business operations. We can think about the tax regulations in certain states, countries, or regions as one example. Further, one can think about the health and safety of employees. Many regions mandate certain rules or laws to follow when employing others. A further example would be meeting regulations set by the FDA. These laws are in place to protect consumers from becoming ill. Naturally, failing to be legally responsible has many negative consequences.

3. Ethical Responsibility

Following legal responsibility on the pyramid is ethical responsibility. Many times, we think about ethical as doing the right thing. Doing the right thing, even though it may not be a law. Generally, ethics go beyond a certain region’s laws and follow the social or cultural norms of that area. Therefore, a company should not be just obeying the law, but also be willing to do business ethically. Although this is not an obligation for your company, it is in the best interests. Customers and employees will be more likely to support your team when making ethical decisions.

An example could be fair working conditions, working wage, working hours, or age of employed worker. Depending on the country or state, laws differ and your team will have to decide how your business is operated and who your business works with. It is up to management to make moral decisions that will ultimately impact consumers, employees, the environment, and this business itself. 

4. Philanthropic Responsibility

The final piece on the pyramid is philanthropic responsibility. Businesses are expected to give back to their communities. Similar to ethical responsibility, this is not an obligation or law for most countries. However, incorporating philanthropic responsibility has many benefits. Businesses being philanthropic improves brand image. Further, consumer engagement increases & employees are more likely to apply for a job. The nature of this responsibility is completely voluntary and is guided by your company’s desire to take part in social activities.

Naturally a company can donate part of the profits from the first section of the pyramid — economic. However, philanthropic does not always have to be money that is donated. Teams can donate time or products. With that, leaders can create a volunteer program to allow for volunteer days or volunteer time off. For that, you may want to include a volunteer policy which will help to manage and coordinate your team. The social responsibility of a business is to make sure that they can affect social, economic, public health, and environmental changes in a positive way.


As a review, the four types of social responsibility include: economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic. These responsibilities are all complementary to each other and are great to incorporate to your corporate plans. You can review our commitment to these goals through our B Corp Certification

Finally, we at Selflessly are always happy to help with your philanthropic goals. Please feel free to reach out anytime with questions about Corporate Giving or Volunteering Programs. [email protected]

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