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How you define something is very important. It sets the foundation for the programs and initiatives you’re trying to implement. So what’s our take on these terms? Here is a brief definition of each of the following terms.

Click on the links provided to get more details (such as examples, attributes, and purpose).

  • Cause-branding
  • Cause-marketing
  • Corporate Philanthropy
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Philanthropy
  • Shareholder
  • Stakeholder
  • Strategic Philanthropy
  • Sustainability

Or you can browse all of our definitions which are organized by the date they were posted.


Cause Branding: For the most part, cause branding and cause-marketing share the same definition: A potentially profit-making initiative by a for-profit company or brand to raise awareness, money, and/or consumer engagement in a social or environmental issue. Cause branding additionally attempts to create a permanent association in the eyes of the consumer between the company or brand and the issue. Click here for more details.

Cause marketing (interchangeable with cause-related marketing): Cause-marketing is a potentially profit-making initiative by a for-profit company or brand to raise awareness, money, and/or consumer engagement in a social or environmental issue. Click here for more details.

Corporate Philanthropy: Corporate Philanthropy mirrors individual philanthropy except for the fact that a corporation, not an individual, is donating funds, time, or talent. Although done on a larger scale, corporate philanthropy is still done without any expectation of direct corporate gain (such as increases in revenue), but usually involves indirect gains (such as enhancing a company’s brand, engaging employees, recognition, etc.). Click here for more details.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR is a set of actions of a company that changes business operations to improve, maintain, or mitigate a company’s impact on society and the environment. Click here for more details.

Philanthropy: Philanthropy is about the giving of time, talent, and treasure, but unlike charity, there is a possibility of return. Also unlike charity, philanthropy has more in-depth and partnership-based nature. Click here for more details.

Shareholder (interchangeable with stockholder): A shareholder is simply an individual, organization, or company that legally own share(s) of stock in a joint-stock company. By owning shares of stock, a company’s shareholders collectively own the company itself and therefore have the right to vote on decisions that affect how the company is run. This usually means the shareholders as part owners will push for company actions that increase their own financial returns. Click here for more details.

Stakeholder: A company that uses the stakeholder approach to conducting business typically views the impact of business operations on a wide range of issues; including, but not limited to: profit, reputation, employees, supplies, customers, shareholders, the environment, and the communities where the company conducts business. The length of concern for changes in business operations is usually short-term and long-term; such as understanding the need to meet business objectives on a quarterly or annual basis, but also appreciating the need to focus on the impact on the company beyond just an annual time-frame. Click here for more details.

Strategic Philanthropy: the practice of companies by which they target their respective charitable and philanthropic activities around a specific issue or cause that will in turn support their own business objectives. In other words, companies look to use philanthropy as a means to simultaneously and directly benefit their business interests and those of a beneficiary organization. Click here for more details.

Sustainability (interchangeable with corporate sustainability): Sustainability is a business strategy that drives long-term corporate growth and profitability by mandating the inclusion of environmental and social issues in the business model. Unlike corporate social responsibility, which retroactively addresses issues, sustainability implies a forward trajectory. In other words, CSR looks to the past actions of a company while sustainability looks forward by changing the nature of the company. Click here for more details.