Nonprofits and SR (1): Redefining Nonprofits with Social Responsibility Activities / Voice of a nonprofit

Posted on September 12, 2016
by NN-Net (NPO/NGO Network for advancing Social Responsibility) Secretariat

Redefining Nonprofits with Social Responsibility

It is important that an NPO/NGO not only project an image of social responsibility in fulfilling its goal and mission, but also incorporate and embody that responsibility in everyday operations.


We often hear about corporate social responsibility (CSR), but what about the Social Responsibility (SR) of NPOs and NGOs? NPOs and NGOs have missions and goals, but they also exist as organizations in society. Just as individuals are liable to civil responsibility and corporations to CSR, NPOs and NGOs have social responsibilities to fulfil. In short, these social responsibilities include: “1. Accountability, 2. Legal responsibility, 3. Responsibility to EHSC (Environment, Health & human rights, Safety & security, and Community)”.1

Why is this important for an NPO or NGO? Why should it be considered separately from the original mission or goals of the organization? The benefits can be summarized into two areas.

Firstly, it is important that an NPO/NGO not only project an image of social responsibility in fulfilling its goal and mission, but also incorporate and embody that responsibility in everyday operations.

This is vital in enabling an organization to earn public trust. Though these principles may seem at first glance matter-of-fact to NGOs and NPOs, the reality is that NGOs and NPOs pressed by day-to-day activities will inevitably put some issues off, or find them quite difficult to address. Yet, addressing SR is a medium-to-long-term issue that touches the core of an organization.


The other area is that of sustainability. Sustainability is a principle, problem and goal in NPOs and NGOs. However, as organizations preach the need for actions to be taken to achieve sustainability, a failure to fulfil SR detaches the organization from understanding and being attuned to the real problems faced by individuals and corporations. Therefore fulfilling SR is a way to allow NPOs and NGOs to develop a sensitivity towards problems which impede sustainability. Moreover, change is a constant, and this sensitivity will reveal to NPOs and NGOs the changing needs of society. This will allow organizations to adapt and stay relevant in society.

To achieve the mission (social mission), many NGOs and NPOs which promote activities that specialize in certain regions or on certain topics are inclined to proudly rest on their laurels, believing that their “existence itself is performing a public benefit,” without actively explaining concrete results. However, in an information society in which citizens are able to easily access all kinds of information, NGOs and NPOs are also obliged to disclose their own information, and must earn the trust of citizens. Communicating more clearly has become important, and NGOs and NPOs must not overlook this process.

When SR is pursued on an organizational level, the workers who abide by these ideas are able to share a common understanding about the core principles of the organization. This will translate into an organizational image that is consistent on the outside and within. Therefore, SR strengthens the foundation of an organization.

Lastly, this discussion about SR is not simply a theory. ISO26000 is a guidance standard that has taken experts, governments, consumers and NGOs five years to deliberate and formulate. This international guidance aims at allowing all kinds of organizations to participate in SR. In order to achieve a sustainable society, we need more than just CSR. We need SR because it applies to all kinds of organizations, not just corporations.

  1. IIHOE [Human, Organization and the International Institute for Earth] – issued “NPO management” No. 52, “In order to meet the social responsibility of NPOs (NSR)



About NN-NET (NPO/NGO Network for Advancing Social Responsibility) 

NN-NET (NPO/NGO Network for Advancing Social Responsibility is a unique network, consisting of about 26 nonprofits members, with a mission to discuss, advocate, and engage with various social responsibility (SR) issues for the further improvement of the civil sector. The Network has held a variety of SR workshops and annual forums in addition to the monthly meetings. It consolidates the collective voice of NPO/NGOs and dispatches representative members to a domestic SR conference as well as an ISO26000 international conference. JNPOC serves as the coordinating organization for NN-NET.