Sustainability describes the ability to maintain various systems and processes — environmentally, socially, and economically — over time. Sustainability originated in natural resource economics, but has since gained broader currency in terms of sustainable development and social equality.
Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, usually refers to a company’s commitment to practice environmental and social sustainability and to be good stewards of the environment and the social landscapes in which they operate.
Some companies and economists rejected the idea of CSR because it implied an obligation to society and future generations beyond those contained in the binding legal requirements of business. However, most companies now embrace some notion of CSR.
Approaches to CSR vary. Some companies invest in CSR as reputation management or to sustain the profitability of a company, and some invest in CSR out of a sense of moral obligation to society. These resources focus on sustainability and CSR primarily in terms of moral obligation, and offer insight into ethics concepts relevant to economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social equity.
Begin by viewing the suggested videos for an introduction of concepts that are basic to sustainability and CSR, such as determining what factors to favor in ethical decisions, the impact of intangible factors in ethical dilemmas, and best practices for developing ethical culture in organizations.
View additional videos to learn about the ways that incentives affect economics, how the slippery slope leads to degradation, why “framing” matters, and the hallmarks of fair and equal representation. Additional videos introduce behavioral biases that impact ethical decision-making, such as the tendency to switch values based on our role and the importance of loss aversion in making moral choices.
To prompt conversation, use the discussion questions which follow each video. Each video has teaching notes for details on the ethics concept, and (often) assignment suggestions.
Read the case studies for a variety of examples to start your class discussion on issues related to economic and environmental sustainability and social equity. The recommended case studies cover these topics across a wide range of disciplines and examine sustainability and CSR in terms of fair business practices, environmental policies, advertising, consumer goods, equal representation, and freedom of speech.