Nonprofits and SR (2): Taking Real Steps towards Social Responsibility InsightsActivities / Voice of a nonprofit

Posted on September 15, 2016
by NN-Net (NPO/NGO Network for advancing Social Responsibility) Secretariat

Taking real steps towards  Social Responsibility

How should NGOs and NPOs approach SR? What is the relationship between an nonprofits’ mission and area of activity, and SR initiatives? What is needed in order to address SR cooperatively?


%ef%bd%93%ef%bd%92%e3%81%ae%ef%bc%92%ef%bd%82                                                 Photo  by  Seaside Gallery ( Kuroshio-Town, Kochi , Japan )


Q1 How should NGOs and NPOs approach SR?

 SR does not need to start from “zero.” Chances are, your organization is already working on some sort of SR. You can review your current situation and take some additional steps to further develop SR.

Consider the following in regards to your organization,

・ Are the brochures made by your organization easy to understand?

・Are annual reports, rather than being created for submission to government agencies, made to be read and understood by members and supporters?

・Are there rules (employment regulations, memorandum of understanding, etc.) for each role and activity for people involved in the organization (members, directors, staff, volunteers, etc.)?

・Are policies (commercial agreements, personal information protection policies, etc.) for activities documented?


A photo by Dustin Lee.

 The above are the considerations commonly associated with social responsibility. However, take a step back and consider the following.

Step 1.  Learn what “SR” means for your own organization, and reach a common consensus amongst your management. The following seven categories are broken down based on ISO26000. The questions are non-exhaustive, and you should come up with questions that are applicable to your organization.


Does your organization make an effort to use recycled paper?

Does your organization keep a record of its use of resources (such as energy consumption)?

Human rights

In your surveys or forms, do you include questions on gender with only two choices of male/female?

Does your organization have its human rights policies laid out? Are your staff educated on the human rights policies implemented by your organization?

Labor practices

Are your staff working long hours to drive down costs?

Is there an overwhelming majority of male employees?

Do female and male employees receive equal wages?

Fair operating practices

Does your organization provide a channel for feedback from the public, and keep it on record?

Have major decisions ever been made without consulting various stakeholders?

Community involvement and development

Have you ever worked with other organizations in the vicinity of your office?

Have you ever conducted an activity in a local environment without surveying the opinions of people in the area?

Consumer Issues

Has your organization ever conducted the sale of food products without considering their nutritional value? (for example, providing children in poverty with large amounts of bread without considering their nutritional intake)

Has your organization ever sold products entirely for the sake of channeling profits for your social cause without considering the social value of the products?

Organizational governance

Has your organization been showing recognition of contributions by volunteers?

Is there a channel for staff to provide feedback on decisions made by the management?


Step 2.  Discard the existing perspective of the organization taken from management’s point of view and reassess past views and problems from a fresh “SR” perspective.

Step 3.  Prioritize SR matters that should be addressed.


Q2 What is the relationship between an nonprofit’s mission and area of activity, and SR initiatives?

Unlike the corporate world where companies tend to work in isolation, except in cases of cooperation for mutual benefit, nonprofits’ experience a high level of positive spillover from the presence of other nonprofits. One reason for this is that nonprofits working in the same social sector are able to compound on one another’s efforts in bringing a social problem to the fore. Conversely, nonprofits that work in isolation are restricted in their ability to advance their cause.

Each NPO/NGO works according its respective mission. However, even if the activities themselves tackle pertinent issues, is the social responsibility of the people working in that organization being properly fulfilled? Further, is the organization also conscious of other social issues?

It is important to develop a common consciousness amongst NPOs in order to capitalize on positive spillovers and reap greater social returns for the same amount of activity. For example, in addressing environmental issues, where previously only organizations with a specific interest in the environment were addressing the problems, all organizations now give some sort of consideration to the environment. If awareness of SR deepens, organizations will start to implement more initiatives, albeit to a varying degree depending on how central each issue is to the particular organization. The first step is to start by cleaning out and communicating within the organization so that it will become clear “what matters should be addressed”, “the scope of those matters” and “to what extent they should be addressed”.


Q3 What is needed in order to address SR cooperatively?

  In order to fulfill the nonprofits’ social responsibility effectively, it is important to promote activities not only from the point of view of the nonprofit itself, but with a multi-stakeholder approach. A multi-stakeholder approach is a method in which various outside stakeholders participate in policymaking and decision-making. For nonprofits, it is necessary to promote activities incorporating the points of view of supporters, beneficiaries, participants, members and the community.


  In cases where corporations and public administrations, labor unions and consumer groups, are tackling SR problems in cooperation with experts, cooperation better utilizing the NGO or NPO’s strengths can be achieved by always remaining conscious of the following kinds of principles:

  • Communication → mutual understanding
  • Highly value the perspectives of beneficiaries → shared objectives
  • Respect of position → establishment of equality
  • Publicly open → ensures transparency

In addition, “sharing of information”,” evaluation of business”, “fairness” and “timeliness” are also necessary elements.

These cooperation principles should be incorporated into the promotion and administration of an nonprofit, and a number of local governments have used them as a basis for policies and regulations related to nonprofits. Even when cooperating with stakeholders other than the government, the following 8 principles are considered necessary elements:


< 8 attitudes of nonprofits cooperating with the government>

  1. Make business for which the participation and sympathy of the public is fundamental, and through this create true citizen autonomy.
  2. Consider the compatibility between the mission of the organization and the collaborative programs with other organizations, especially when developing these programs
  3. Be mentally independent without depending on the government.
  4. Have an attitude that endeavors to find solutions, while understanding the differences between each other’s systems,
  5. Have the expertise and characteristics necessary to improve the quality of collaborative business by inclusion of the nonprofit.
  6. Have the ability to overcome differences in rules.
  7. Be willing to have collaborative results widely known to the public as the common property of citizens.
  8. In contracts, have the power to negotiate on an equal footing.

Source: Private NPO Support Centers, Association for Future Prospects. 

************************************************************** Reference

NPO/NGO Network for advancing Social Responsibiity (2010) Korekarano SR (booklet) 



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.