The Five Driving Forces of CSR: Can You Name a Sixth?

I take little credit for the intelligence of this post. Indeed, I give all that might be due to Werther & Chandler’s 2011 text, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment, as well as to my Green Mountain College MBA Triple-Bottom-Line Management Course, in progress. Through these studies, the five below drivers have been articulated as those most germane to the promotion of CSR, but I ask you, my favorite TriplePundit readers, are there others? Have motivating factors been missed? What else has brought us here, to this CSR “Tipping Point”?

The Five Driving Forces of CSR:

  1. Increased Affluence: CSR becomes more relevant as economies grow and stabilize. Therefore, the greatest attention to CSR is found in developed countries. Stable work and security provide the luxury of choice and socially responsible activism. No such luxury exists when basic needs are in question.
  2. Ecological Sustainability: Perhaps the most obvious and most talked about of the drivers, concerns over pollution, waste, natural resource depletion, climate change and the like continue to fuel the CSR discussion and heighten expectations for proactive corporate action. After all, it is in the best interest of firms to protect for the sustainable future the long-term availability of the resources on which they depend.
  3. Globalization: Globalization has had considerable impacts. First, the increased wealth and power of multinational corporations has led to questions on the decreased authority of the nation-state, especially in developing areas. Further, cultural differences have added to the complexity of CSR as expectations of acceptable behavior vary regionally. With increased power comes increased responsibility and globalization has fueled the need to filter all strategic decisions through a CSR lens to ensure optimal outcomes for diverse stakeholders.
  4. Free Flow of Information: Yes, blame the bloggers, but through the Internet and other electronic mediums the flow of information has shifted back to the stakeholders, especially in the case of three important groups: consumers, NGOs and the general media. Easily accessible and affordable communication technologies have permanently changed the game and only truly authentic and transparent companies will profit in the long term.
  5. The Power of the Brand: Brands are today the focal point of corporate success and much of the health of the brand depends on public perception of the corporation. In other words, reputation is key and honest CSR is a way to protect that reputation and therefore the brand.

As reported by the aforementioned text, Malcolm Gladwell referred to the tipping point as the point of critical mass after which an idea spreads widely and becomes generally accepted and broadly implemented. I argue that CSR has reached such a tipping point, pushed there by the five above factors. I further argue that CSR will become more mainstream and more part and parcel of everyday business strategy. These five forces have brought us here and will continue to promote and develop trends towards greater social responsibility on the part of firms. But, are there others? Factors that have not here been considered that have or will prompt this continued CSR evolution?



Leslie is a Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include sustainability, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media, fundraising and public policy. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and is certified in the Global Reporting initiative for Sustainability Reporting. Additionally, she holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga. She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.