Should Digitization Be Integrated Into Corportare Social Responsibility?

While digitization and the benefits of Industry 4.0, IOT, Digital Work Place, Big Data etc. have been discussed exhaustively, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seems to lack behind when it comes to digitization. Even the United Nation Global Compact, one of the most essential CSR tools, ignores the digital business world. Of course, in the Codes of Conducts of many enterprises of all sizes, guide lines regarding data security, social media or device handling are found. Occupational safety and health management regulate working times in front of computer screens and other topics. But the question arises – is this enough?

For example, data security is often a topic of the IT department and work places are topic of the HR department. This perspective is not sufficient as the big picture of digitization goes far beyond these small fractions.

CSR models have been adopted according to scarcity of resources and environmental impact, finding their way into various regulations of labor law ending up in sustainability reports. Topics related with digitization are often pushed towards other departments within companies.

Rethink Workplaces and Boundaries

As a result of the future-oriented and responsibility-driven nature of CSR, it is important that CSR prepares the society and working world for the Modern Workplace 4.0. Traditional concepts of a working environment are going to change significantly. Stakeholders will get closer to each other and collaborate on digital platforms. This does not mean that boundaries will be entirely abandoned, but their perceived validity will be reduced as these stakeholders work together with a project-based approach aiming to achieve a common goal. Summarizing this development, it can be said that the idea of competition is changing: customers are going to become partners or even brand or product ambassadors. This also means that the disciplines marketing, PR, data bases and social media are merging with each other. This development means for CSR that that the previous opinion of copy rights and patent protection has to be reconsidered.  How are rights and obligations managed in an environment where hybrid work places become standard and stationary work places in an office are the exception?


Further, traditional project management needs to be rethought.  To a certain extent, a loss of control is related to digitization as the number of interdependencies is almost infinite and individuals are more and more losing their data sovereignty. Which impact does this have on sustainable data management? How are we going to track ecological footprints in the future if we already have troubles tracking down global production processes in an environment which will be even more volatile and dynamic in the future? Looking back to the past, there is no need to say that we have increased our velocity in almost every aspect in our lives through digitization. Regarding the work environment, decision and business processes have been accelerated enormously and there is no indicator that this is going to slow down in the future. If anything, the degree of cross-linking and complexity is increasing and humans are no longer able to orchestrate these processes. As a consequence, ICT is necessary to support these processes and enable humans to stay on top of things.

Take Advantage of Changes

Being digital also means being in a state of constant change. For many employees or customers this is a horrible concept – leaving their personal comfort zone and looking into an uncertain future. This volatility addresses a new organization culture where managers and employees accept that decisions and answers might not be valid in a short period of time and see this constant change as a constant chance for continuous improvement. Organization will change from big and static entities to decentralized and dynamic networks. It is the main purpose of CSR to actively shape these developments and emphasize sustainable aspects.

Consider constant change as a constant chance for continuous improvement

(Further readings in German here)