Last edited 12 Oct 2018

Corporate social responsibility in construction

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to the belief that companies should have a positive impact on the community and wider society rather than simply generating profit. The overall impact of a company is determined by what it produces, the environmental impact, its recruitment and training processes, its adherence to rights and values, its investment in the community, and so on.

CSR responsibilities are often expressed in terms of four general categories:

  • Economic.
  • Legal.
  • Ethical.
  • Philanthropic.

The Business Impact Task Force suggests that ‘behaving in a socially responsible way is not only the right thing to do but makes good business sense, for both large and small businesses.’

The culture of a company, as perceived by society as well as the company itself is often determined by the principles of CSR that it follows.

There can be considerable damage, in terms of PR as well as financial impacts if a company fails to fulfill obligations in terms of health and safety, the environment, human rights, gender discrimination, and so on. Surveys often show that people believe a company to be a ‘good employer’ if they have established links with charities, schools or other local community groups. In addition, companies that are open and transparent in their reporting on CSR are generally viewed more positively by their stakeholders.

In general, CSR helps build wider trust and confidence in a company from stakeholders and society .

Construction companies are often challenged to do more in this area, and have in the past made great strides to improve, particularly with regard to health and safety. However, the industry as a whole has a generally poor record on employment and diversity issues, with women and ethnic minorities being consistently under-represented. A 2016 survey found that women make up only 11% of the UK construction workforce, and just 1% of onsite workers.

Construction companies can incorporate CSR in several ways, such as:

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Zhao, Z,Y., Zhao, X.J., Davidson, K., Zuo, J., (2012), A corporate social responsibility indicator system for construction enterprises, Journal of Cleaner Production, Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.12.036

This evaluative paper, cited by 143, develops a framework for CSR indicators relevant to construction enterprises worldwide. It was identified that the construction industry has become increasingly targeted by governments to manage their performance, based on social responsibility, and that comprehensive indicator measurement was lacking. Analysis was divided between project and corporation levels. Through an extensive literature review, thirty CSR indicators were identified, eight of which were related to Health and Safety for Employees. Zhao Zhen Yu is a professor and Zhao Xiao-Jing is a doctoral student at the School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University. Davidson is a Lecturer and Zuo, PhD in Architecture, is associate professor, at the University of Adelaide.

The study places Health and Safety firmly in the realms of CSR for construction companies.