In addition to CSR, what about “PSR?”

posted by Tara Knight

Guest post by: Jennifer Hamilton
Account Executive, Hill & Knowlton, Tampa, Fla.

Over the past 10 years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown from an admirable goal for a few companies to an almost certain requirement for many businesses and corporations. Consumers care about what companies are doing to improve society and many use a company’s CSR efforts (or lack of) to help inform buying decisions.

Many view CSR as an important and necessary part of business. In a society where people care more and more about what businesses are doing outside of their own bottom line, CSR offers a moral and ethical compass by which companies can gauge their corporate conscience against, and one that citizens can use to monitor the level of responsibility companies are taking for the environment, economy and society. People may differ on what constitutes good CSR, but most believe in its overall importance.

Mashable, an online news source on web culture, social media and technology, recently posted an article about a personal version of CSR. In the article, they discuss “PSR” and argue that commitments to sustainability are not just for brands anymore. The author poses an intriguing question about whether the same sustainability lens that’s been held to companies will soon be held up to the individual … and if it should be.

Imagine if you were defined by a score, or evaluated on a scale for what you did or didn’t do for your community or for the broader environment. As a society, we are often quick to cast judgments about others (whether they are spoken or unspoken) on their philanthropic or altruistic actions. We naturally want to surround ourselves with those who we admire and who motivate us to become better ourselves. So, is PSR just a natural extension of this? Especially given the dominance of social media and the seemingly never ending desire to broadcast ones every move?

In some ways, there are already systems in place that measure a person’s worth or credibility, such as a credit score. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we want them on display. In fact, most are quite protective of this information, and rightly so, even when they’re admirably high.

With “PSR” comes the next question of “How will it be conveyed?” Is it internalized by the person and kept private or is it shared or broadcast in some way? And if so, how? And how is the accuracy determined? Is it based on self reporting or another form that can be more measured? How would you feel about not only having a “PSR” score or evaluation, but also having it open for anyone to see, including clients and/or prospective bosses? What about future in-laws? What are the implications on our society to have those “scores” standardized and searchable for anyone to find?

Maybe the question isn’t if people should be held to the same standards as businesses, but rather, should it be publicized for all to know? After all, people already differ on how CSR is defined. I imagine that “PSR” could also create similar debate. To some, having a “PSR” commitment would mean dedicating time and money to charitable causes or being environmentally friendly. Others may define their commitment to simply being a person with high moral and ethical standards. Should your social worth be conveyed to everyone and anyone?

The concept of “PSR” may seem like a wild idea, but keep in mind that at one time, even as early as twenty years ago, CSR did not really exist and certainly wasn’t the standard business practice it is today. What if, in ten years time, “PSR” is just as widespread? Imagine where that could take us as individuals… and even more importantly, as a society…

What do you think? In addition to CSR, should we have personal social responsibility?

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