Sustainability (ESG) Vs. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Author: Lara Guerrero, MG Public Relations, Dominican Republic

Both terms are commonly used to describe how companies can show their commitment to sustainability and a better planet. Companies have all kinds of motivations for assigning resources and properly investing in long term initiatives.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report “Global Risk Perception Survey 2023”, 33% of global companies are prioritizing sustainability to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. Others invest in corporate citizenship best practices for a short-lived media boost.

As companies continue to take steps to become more sustainable, the term “corporate sustainability” is thrown around a lot in the board rooms. Some even confuse corporate sustainability with other terms such as “corporate social responsibility” (CSR).

The term “corporate sustainability (ESG)” describes a new business management model. It can also fall under the broader term “environmental, social and governance” (ESG = Environmental, Social, Governance). Corporate sustainability emphasizes growth and profitability through intentional business practices in these three areas. The goal is to create and deliver long-term value for stakeholders without compromising people, the planet, or the economy.

Sustainability can be measure by overlapping frameworks and sustainability reporting standards, which can sometimes make it feel a bit like acronym or alphabet soup. There’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol, IRIS, SASB, GRESB, TCFD, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Equator Principles, HIGG for apparel companies, as well as B Lab’s B-Corporation framework.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), on the other hand, is a self-regulated business model that aims to improve society and the environment. It is a more flexible general framework for corporate behavior that can vary in terms of its implementation. The nature of CSR is qualitative, although the voluntary standard ISO 26000 helps companies define social responsibility and provides practical guidance for achieving it.

Good CSR helps companies maintain a positive brand image and boosts stakeholder morale. Companies often highlight the achievements of their CSR efforts in annual reports.


Global coffee franchise Starbucks has long been known for its keen sense of CSR and commitment to community well-being. For example, in 2021, the Ethisphere Institute named Starbucks one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 15th year in a row. According to Starbuck’s 2020 Global Social Impact Report, the company aims to: Source 100% of its coffee from ethical sources; Create a global network of farmers and supply them with 100 million trees by 2025; Support green building infrastructure in all stores; Contribute to millions of hours of community service; Create an innovative university program for employees; Hire 5,000 veterans and 10,000 refugees.

With its positive social image, Starbucks has seen year-over-year growth. In the fourth quarter of 2021, net revenue increased 31% to a record $8.1 billion. CSR creates value for Starbucks by giving the coffee chain a unique selling point (USP), helping the company stand out from the rest.



Microsoft’s commitment to ESG governance is evident through its ongoing efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, foster digital inclusion, and maintain high standards of corporate governance. In 2020, Microsoft announced its plan to become carbon negative by 2030 and eliminate all historical carbon emissions by 2050. Additionally, the company has established the “AI for Good” initiative, which supports the development of AI solutions to address challenges social issues such as inequality. and environmental sustainability.


Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and equipment company, has long been recognized for its dedication to ESG principles. By incorporating environmental conservation and social responsibility into its core values, Patagonia has cultivated a strong reputation for ethical business practices. Some of the company’s initiatives include using organic and recycled materials in its products, providing fair wages and safe working conditions for its workers, and donating a percentage of its sales to environmental organizations.


Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, has positioned itself as a leader in ESG governance by setting ambitious sustainability goals and integrating them into its overall business strategy. The company aims to become carbon positive by 2030 and has committed to eliminating non-recyclable plastic packaging by 2025. Additionally, Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan includes a commitment to improve the livelihoods of millions of people and promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.