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The Rise of CSR in UK Universities

CSR & UK Universities

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is rapidly gaining popularity among universities in the United Kingdom. Many schools, including the University of London and the University of Sunderland, have added CSR policies to their websites. In these policies, the universities state how and why they will contribute to a variety of social issues, such as environmental sustainability and volunteerism. Some universities have gone one step further and developed CSR courses and programmes. In 2003, The University of Nottingham became the first UK school to offer an MBA in CSR. Other universities, such as the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, have followed suit. Corporate social responsibility is becoming an important part of university identities in the UK.

Why have CSR efforts thrived in these universities? There are three main reasons:

  • Social responsibility plays a central role in the lives of many contemporary students.

    According to a 2013 study, Millennials are relatively more interested in social causes than older generations. The study also notes that CSR impacts many Millennials' economic and personal decisions. For example, 84% surveyed claimed that it influences their shopping purchases. Millennials make up the majority of university student populations; therefore, university campuses are a great place to promote CSR to a large, motivated audience.

  • Universities benefit economically.

    A 2012 article from The Guardian notes that CSR gives schools a "competitive advantage". It helps them build a good reputation which, in turn, brings in socially aware students and sponsors. Although some actions universities take to become more socially responsible may cost them in the short run, they will earn more public and financial support in the long run.

  • These efforts enrich communities.

    With CSR, universities—as well as their staffs, sponsors and students—gain the opportunity to make significant changes in their local and international communities. Cardiff University's CSR policy states that its school shops will "support and provide local and Fairtrade produce". By selling these products, the university helps advance Cardiff's economy and improve the lives of workers in developing countries (via the fair trade movement).

Corporate social responsibility has appeal to students, universities, local communities, and the global community. These are a few of the reasons that CSR is on the rise in UK universities. This increased campus popularity has exciting implications. If students learn about CSR during their time at university, they are more likely to become employees and employers who use socially responsible business practices. These universities are helping to create better businesses and better business people.