is an ethical
framework and suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large
. Social responsibility is a duty every individual has to perform so as to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystems. A trade-off may exist between economic development, in the material sense, and the welfare of the society and environment, though this has been challenged by many reports over the past decade. Social responsibility means sustaining the equilibrium
between the two. It pertains not only to business organizations but also to everyone whose any action impacts the environment. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, by performing activities that directly advance social goals.
Businesses can use ethical decision making to secure their businesses by making decisions that allow for government agencies to minimize their involvement with the corporation. For instance if a company follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) guidelines for emissions on dangerous pollutants and even goes an extra step to get involved in the community and address those concerns that the public might have; they would be less likely to have the EPA investigate them for environmental concerns. "A significant element of current thinking about privacy, however, stresses "self-regulation" rather than market or government mechanisms for protecting personal information
". According to some experts, most rules and regulations are formed due to public outcry, which threatens profit maximization
and therefore the well-being of the shareholder, and that if there is not outcry there often will be limited regulation.
Some critics argue that corporate social responsibility
(CSR) distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing, or "greenwashing"; others argue that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful corporations though there is no systematic evidence to support these criticisms. A significant number of studies have shown no negative influence on shareholder results from CSR but rather a slightly negative correlation with improved shareholder returns.