Culturally Kosher: Cultural Terms, Cultural Sensitivities Which Make or Break Your Corporate Responsibility (Part Four)

This is the fourth and final part in our series on creating a global CSR program. This article discusses the importance of cultural sensitivity.

This is a continuation of our series on an Effective Global CSR Vision. Read Part Three: A Local License to Operate.


We’ve been talking about all the necessary steps of the Head, Heart, and Hands in establishing a strong Corporate Social Responsibility Plan. It leads us to a final point on being sensitive to the culture into which we enter, just as we would hope people would be sensitive in entering or playing a part in our culture. It’s most helpful, in fact, to even think about entering one’s home. In this way, it allows us to come with a lens of being extremely respectful.

Each culture view all our “terms” differently. Philanthropy, Volunteering, Corporate Social Responsibility–and many more terms–are often defined quite differently in other cultures and groups. We need to understand that these terms are a part of our heritage and culture, but not necessarily in another community. Or, sometimes a country or culture might define them differently.

Here is an example of this cultural sensitivity. What is particularly tricky here is that you or your company might be striving to do something very benevolent. However, your action may not always be well received. For example, you might want to send a team of volunteers to help build a home in a community. Or, you might want to provide a “wish” to a terminally ill child. In America, we warmly welcome such offerings, and are long used to sharing our help across companies, nonprofits, recipients, churches, governments, and schools.

In some countries, they are used to receiving support more locally. They would rely on friends and neighbors to provide these services. Help is warmly received from people whom they know, and are local. “Outsiders,” even benevolent outsiders, would be considered an affront. It is almost as if through their personal community and network, they can and want to meet their needs in a personal, warm way.

Having an effective global CSR program takes into account numerous considerations. It starts with planning and then entails much listening to constituents. In order to optimize both for-profit and nonprofit incentives, it incorporates many business units at headquarters, and many viewpoints abroad. By taking the time to engage with your global CSR vision, you will effectively serve your company’s bottom line–as well as the bottom line of the strength and health of our global communities.


About the author

I'm the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving™. UniversalGiving helps people give and volunteer with the top-performing, vetted organizations all over the world.