Glossary Of CSR Terms

Foundational. Educational. Informative.
A curated glossary of common, contemporary terms and concepts related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This searchable, living document will facilitate and enrich one’s understanding of CSR.


Adaptive Social Problems

Complex problems, with an unknown answer, for which no single entity has the resources or authority to bring about the necessary change. For example, reforming public education. (Kania & Kramer, 2011)

Compare to Technical Social Problems

Angel Investors

Investors who provide capital to help an entrepreneur or startup get off the ground or grow. Capital is typically provided in exchange for equity or convertible debt. (Kentn, 2018a)



For-profit businesses with a certified social impact mission supported by transparency and accountability requirements. In this case, “b” stands for benefit. The nonprofit B Lab administers the certification. (Boyea-Robinson, 2015)

B-Corp Certification measures a company’s social and environmental performance at every level: supply chain, workers, customers, charitable giving, etc. (B Lab, n.d.)

Blended Value

A conceptual framework viewing the value a company creates as unified and holistic rather than as separate elements (environmental, social, financial, etc.). (Emerson, 2019)

Compare to Shared Value

Brand Activism

Business efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, and/or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to promote or impede improvements in society. (Sarkar & Kotler, 2018)

Business Ethics

Standards of business behavior that promote human welfare and “the good.” (Hanson, n.d.)


Cause-Related Marketing (CRM)

A form of marketing where a company and a nonprofit organization partner to create both social change and business value for the company. (Financial Times, n.d.)

Circular Economy

Industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. (World Economic Forum, n.d.)

Cluster Strategy

A Corporate Social Responsibility strategy in which a company chooses two or more clusters or issues to support that match the organization’s core values. (Roza, 2017a)

See also Coalition StrategyDiffuse Strategy, and Focused Strategy.

Coalition Strategy

A Corporate Social Responsibility strategy in which several parties enter into a partnership to address a specific issue. (Roza, 2017a)

See also Cluster StrategyDiffuse Strategy, and Focused Strategy.

Collective Impact

The commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Uses a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process leading to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants. (Kania & Kramer, 2011)

Compare to Isolated Impact.

Collectivist Charity

A model of philanthropy originating in China that directs and mobilizes individuals’ collective economic, political, and social capital to address social needs. The model is based on three pillars: cognition (seeing selves as part of a community), action (assuming a collective responsibility), and investment (collective visions for both current and future actions). (Marquis, Qi, & Qiao, n.d.)

Community Chest

Money collected by people in a community to help other community members. (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.)

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

Organizations such as banks, credit unions, loan funds, or venture capital providers that share a common goal of expanding economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. (CDFI Fund, n.d.)

Complementary Corporate Foundation

A type of Corporate Foundation with low independence from the affiliated company, dependent on them for funds and personnel, and likely shares the same name as the company. (Roza, 2017b, 3:00)

Compare to Enhancing Corporate FoundationsIntegral Corporate Foundations, and Sovereign Corporate Foundations.

Consumer-Company Indentification

A consumer’s psychological attachment to a company based on a substantial overlap between their perceptions of themselves and their perceptions of the company. (Marin, Ruiz, & Rubio, 2008)

Corporate Citizenship

The notion that corporations have an obligation to society as a whole, not just to investors, employees, or customers. (Makarov, 2018)

Corporate Community Involvement (CCI)

A form of Corporate Social Responsibility concerned with investing in and improving the broader community through social programs for which company employees can volunteer. (Roza, Meijs, & Verlegh, 2013)

Corporate Foundation

Independent, legal, nonprofit entities set up by companies with structural contributions or endowments to focus on a public benefit mission. (Roza, 2017e, 0:22)

Corporate Philanthropy

Donation of resources towards a social good, on the behalf of a company. (Lazzari, 2018)

Corporate Social Investing

A form of Corporate Social Responsibility where businesses use money or resources for projects that improve the world around them without a direct financial benefit to the company. (Kuta, 2018)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

A company’s commitment to improving or enhancing community well-being through discretionary contributions of corporate resources. (Roza, 2016)

There are five dimensions of CSR: Environment, Social, Economic, Stakeholder, Volunteerism. (Dahlsrud, 2008)

CSR Congruence Model (or CSR-ESR Congruence Model)

A model for assessing the compatibility between employer and employee social responsibility within individual organizations:

  • Low social responsibility: neither employees nor employer care about social responsibility
  • Identity-based social responsibility: organizations and employees perceive and project themselves as socially responsible while taking little or no action to support this
  • Behavior-based social responsibility: high levels of involvement in socially responsible behavior without adopting the corresponding identity
  • Entwined social responsibility: identities and behaviors are aligned for both employer and employee


(Pathania, 2015)

CSR Positioning

The extent to which a company relies on its Corporate Social Responsibility activities to position itself, relative to the competition, in the minds of the consumers. (Du, Bhattacharya, & Sen, 2010)

Corporate Sustainability Management

Similar to Corporate Social Responsibility. Aims to integrate the economic, environmental, and social aspects of business management. (Weber, 2008)



A tool that can be used to measure Corporate Social Responsibility performance; usually includes community impact, financial results, and stakeholder influence. (Frumkin, 2017b, 1:52)

See also: Scorecard

Descriptive Model

A model of Corporate Social Responsibility where activities are linked to the organization’s identity, core values, and/or purpose. (Roza, 2017b, 0:32)

See also: Instrumental Model and Normative Model

Diffuse Strategy

A Corporate Social Responsibility strategy in which a company focuses efforts on needs or interests of certain stakeholders. (Roza, 2017a)

See also Cluster StrategyCoalition Strategy, and Focused Strategy.

Do Tank

A body of individuals, groups, or companies with an action-oriented aim. The concept evolved from the idea of a think tank.

Donor-Advised Funds

Philanthropic vehicle managed by wide variety of public charity sponsors that allow donors to retain advisory rights. Donors establish and fund a charitable account with a sponsoring organization that will be used later to support charitable activities. Donors receive an immediate tax deduction and maintain advisory privileges over both the fund’s investments and ultimate distribution for charitable purposes. In return, the sponsor gains control and authority over management of the funds. Can be used in conjunction with impact investing. (Macpherson, Kearney, & Kulow, 2018)

Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World)

Global index consisting of the top 10% of the largest 2,500 stocks in the S&P Global Broad Market Index based on their sustainability and environmental practices. (Chen, 2018)


Ethical Trusteeship Model

A model in which Corporate Social Responsibility is seen as a voluntary commitment by companies to public welfare and nation building. (Handy, 2017, 0:54)

Compare to Liberal ModelStakeholder Model, and Statist Model.

Employee Engagement Models

Models for engaging employees with Corporate Social Responsibility:

  • Transactional Approach – Approach to employee engagement where programs are undertaken to meet the needs and interests of employees who want to take part in socially responsible efforts of a company
  • Relational Approach – Approach to employee engagement where an organization and its employees together make a commitment to social responsibility
  • Developmental Approach – Approach to employee engagement where a company aims to more fully activate and develop its employees and the firm to produce greater value for business and society

(Mirvis, 2012)

Employee Lifecycle Management

Human resources model to describe the stages a worker undergoes (prospective employee, new employee, established employee, former employee) and how Corporate Social Responsibility can facilitate one’s progression through the stages. (Roza, 2017d, 1:35)

Employee Matching

When an employer matches or donates the same amount an employee donates to a charity of the employee’s choice. See also: Matching Gifts

Enhancing Corporate Foundation

A type of Corporate Foundation that is highly independent from affiliated company. The foundation typically has a strong relationship to the company’s core business and acts as the company’s independent partner. (Roza, 2017b, 4:56)

Compare to Complementary Corporate FoundationsIntegral Corporate Foundations, and Sovereign Corporate Foundations.

External Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility efforts directed toward factors outside the firm: environment, local community, customers, suppliers, etc. (Hameed, Riaz, Arain, & Farooq, 2016)


Firm-Specific Human Capital

Knowledge and skills specific to an organization. (Bird, 2017c, 11:12)

Focused Strategy

A Corporate Social Responsibility strategy in which a company links their CSR to their core business. (Roza, 2017a)

See also Cluster StrategyCoalition Strategy, and Diffuse Strategy.

Fourth Sector

A new organizational sector integrating social purposes with business methods; also referred to as “for-benefit.” (Fourth, n.d.) This sectors joins for-profit, nonprofit and governmental organizations as the “fourth sector” of the economy.




Impact Investing

Investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. (Global Impact Investing Network, n.d.)

Institutionalized CSR Programs

On-going or continuous Corporate Social Responsibility efforts that are a regular part of the day-to-day operations of a business. (Pirsch, Gupta, & Grau, 2007)

Instrumental Model

A model of Corporate Social Responsibility in which CSR activities are linked to a company’s strategy and innovation. (Roza, 2017b, 2:29)

See also: Descriptive Model and Normative Model

Integral Corporate Foundation

Corporate Foundation with low independence from the affiliated company. The foundation operates similarly to a Corporate Social Responsibility department at a company and activities are fully controlled by the company. (Roza, 2017b, 4:07)

Compare to Complementary Corporate FoundationEnhancing Corporate Foundation, and Sovereign Corporate Foundation.

Integrity-Based Ethics Management

Combines a concern for the law with an emphasis on managerial responsibility for ethical behavior; goes above and beyond compliance for compliance’s sake and speaks to the deeply held values of the organization; may involve the use of “integrity initiatives” rather than a “legal compliance initiative.” (Paine, 1994)

Internal Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility efforts directed toward factors within the firm. (Hameed, Riaz, Arain, & Farooq, 2016)

Isolated Impact

Approach oriented toward finding and funding a solution embodied within a single organization, combined with the hope that the most effective organizations will grow or replicate to extend their impact more widely. (Kania & Kramer, 2011)

Compare to Collective Impact.




Liberal Model

A Corporate Social Responsibility model focused on the needs of its private owners and shareholders; favors economic privatization and deregulation. (Handy, 2017, 1:50)

Compare to Ethical Trusteeship ModelStatist Model, and Stakeholder Model.

Logic Model

A simplification of a model, program, initiative, or intervention; a schematic representation, or road map, of what the program is going to do and how. (Frumkin, 2017c, 0:30)


Matching Gift

A donation made by a company to a nonprofit or charitable cause that “matches” an employee’s donation.

See also: Employee Matching

Management Top 250

A business ranking system created by the Drucker Institute comparing the performance of major U.S. companies; uses quantitative measurements of the efficacy of a company’s management through a holistic approach considering five core principles: customer satisfaction, employee engagement and development, innovation, social responsibility, and financial strength. (Fuhrmans & Koh, 2017)


Parameters or measures of quantitative assessment used for measurement, comparison, or to track performance or production. (Kenton, 2018b)


A type of banking service provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who otherwise would have no other access to financial services.  (Kagen, 2018)


Normative Model

A model of Corporate Social Responsibility in which CSR activities are linked to pressure from stakeholders: government, consumers, investors, employees, etc. (Roza, 2017b, 3:38)

See also: Descriptive Model and Instrumental Model



Person-Environment Fit

When an individual and the work environment characteristics are well matched. (Roza, 2017c, 0:30)

See also Value Congruence.

Promotional CSR Programs

Corporate Social Responsibility strategies that happen at specific times to specifically appeal to a consumer stakeholder group. (Pirsch, Gupta, & Grau, 2007)

Public Value

Value consumed collectively by the citizenry rather than just clients or consumers of a business; public goods that are jointly consumed. (ANZSOG, 2017)



RepTrak Pulse

The Reputation Institute’s (RI) Corporate Social Responsibility scoring system that evaluates consumers’ perceptions of company governance, positive influence on society and treatment of employees. (Strauss, 2017)



A tool that can be used to measure Corporate Social Responsibility performance; usually includes community impact, financial results, and stakeholder influence. (Frumkin, 2017b, 1:52)

See also: Dashboard

Shared Value

A management strategy in which companies find business opportunities in social problems; rather than focusing on “giving back” or minimizing harm, shared value focuses leaders on maximizing competitive value of solving social problems in new customers and markets, cost savings, talent retention, and more. (Shared Value Initiative, n.d.)

Compare to Blended Value


Actions taken by an organization or business to intentionally communicate positive, imperceptible qualities of themselves. (Connelly, Certo, Ireland, & Reutzel, 2011)

Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

A financial award for social entrepreneurs whose innovations have had a significant, proven impact on the world’s pressing problems, given to invest directly in the promise of greater impact at scale. (Skoll Foundation, n.d.)


Acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based; a tool used to create actionable plans for realistic goal achievement. (Zahorsky, 2018)

Social Enterprise

Enterprise where at least 50% of the profits are invested back into a charitable cause; sometimes referred to as a social business. (Agarwal, 2018)

Social Entrepreneurship

A social enterprise model identifying an unjust equilibrium in society and finding opportunity in it to forge a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large. (Martin & Osberg, 2007)

Social Impact

A significant, positive change addressing a pressing social challenge. (Business+Impact at Michigan Ross, n.d.)

Social Impact Bonds

Leveraging private investment to finance services so providers do not have to front the cost of delivery. Investors are rewarded if providers meet agreed-upon outcomes but lose their investment if providers do not meet those outcomes. (Roy, McHugh, & Sinclair, 2018)

Social Intrapreneurship

Intra-corporate entrepreneurial behavior with a social purpose such as developing a profitable new product, service, or business model that creates value for society and the company. (Jenkins, 2018)

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

Mutual funds that hold securities in companies that adhere to social, moral, religious, or environmental beliefs. (Heyford, 2018)

Social Return on Investment (SROI)

A systematic way of incorporating social, environmental, economic, and other values into decision-making processes. (Salverda, n.d)

Social Venture Capital

Investment in ventures that offer profit potential and make the world a better place through their products and services. (Kenton, 2019)

Sovereign Corporate Foundation

Corporate Foundation that is highly independent from the affiliated company; operates similarly to a private grant-making foundation without a dominant living donor. (Roza, 2017b, 3:40)

Compare to Complementary Corporate FoundationEnhancing Corporate Foundation, and Integral Corporate Foundation.

Statist Model

Corporate Social Responsibility in the context of socialist, mixed economies, with a focus on state-owned companies and legal requirements that influence CSR.  (Handy, 2017, 1:19)

Compare to Ethical Trusteeship ModelLiberal Model, and Stakeholder Model.

Stakeholder Model

Corporate Social Responsibility in the context of globalization, with a focus on citizen and stakeholder activism, large participation by nongovernmental organizations; Model of CSR that responds to the needs of all stakeholders (i.e., customers, employees, and communities). (Handy, 2017, 2:14)

Compare to Ethical Trusteeship ModelLiberal Model, and Statist Model.

Stakeholder Theory

A view of capitalism that stresses the interconnected relationships between a business and its customers, suppliers, employees, investors, communities, and others who have a stake in the organization; argument that firms should create value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. (Stakeholder Theory, n.d.)

See also Stockholder Theory

Stockholder Theory

View that management of a corporation has a duty to maximize shareholder returns (also known as shareholder theory). (Hunsaker, 2018)

See also Stakeholder Theory


Technical Social Problems

Problems that are well defined, the answer is known in advance, and one or a few organizations have the ability to implement the solution. (Kania & Kramer, 2011) Compare to Adaptive Social Problems.

Think Tank

A body of experts producing ideas and research.

Triple Bottom Line

Sustainability framework examining a company’s social, environmental, and economic impact. (Kenton, 2019b)

Trusteeship Model

See also Ethical Trusteeship Model. A model in which Corporate Social Responsibility is seen as a voluntary commitment by companies to public welfare and nation building. (Handy, 2017, 0:54) Compare to Liberal ModelStakeholder Model, and Statist Model.



Value Congruence

When employees and their employer have similar social responsibility patterns based on their social responsible values and behavior. (Roza, 2017c, 1:00)

Values-Based Approach

A leadership and organizational method that builds upon deeply held values and aspirations that motivate employees to act towards a higher social good, help build a better society, and engage with broader communities; sets the foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility to grow upon. (Bird, 2017b, 0:11)

Values-Driven Management

The way in which businesses abide by the four core values of business ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, human rights, and sustainability to make a difference in the community and their society. (Bird, 2017a, 11:37)

Venture Philanthropy

A blanket term describing forms of philanthropy that express a more purpose-, results-, and responsibility-driven worldview. Usual characteristics include:

  • Strategic framing which coordinates targeted resources so they collectively create systemic change
  • Scales of intervention that address systems and sectors rather than individual organizations or projects
  • Sector focuses that tend to be cross-sectoral, engaging civil society, markets, and/or governments as needed
  • Funding mechanisms that blend grants and investments as appropriate to the theory of change
  • Hands-on engagement styles using extended interactions with and between grantees
  • Engagement periods reflecting the goal of systems change, often five to ten years rather than one to two
  • Culture and capabilities focused on innovation and experimentation
  • Monitoring and evaluation that allows quick adaptation and focuses on outcomes and impacts

(Cunniffe, 2014)






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craig snyder

CEO, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

“The Satell Institute is at the leading edge of the global CSR wave, informing CEOs about the centrality of CSR to their forward-looking business plans. By creating and codifying long-term commitments between businesses and nonprofits, the Satell Institute is building a structure within which all of us can win.”