Carroll's CSR Pyramid is a simple framework that helps argue how and why organisations should meet their social responsibilities.

The key features of Carroll's CSR Pyramid are that:

  • CSR is built on the foundation of profit – profit must come first
  • Then comes the need for a business to ensure it complies with all laws & regulations
  • Before a business considers its philanthropic options, it also needs to meet its ethical duties
Carroll's CSR Pyramid

The four responsibilities displayed on the pyramid are:


  • This is the responsibility of business to be profitable
  • Only way to survive and benefit society in long-term


  • This is the responsibility to obey laws and other regulations
  • E.g. Employment, Competition, Health & Safety


  • This is the responsibility to act morally and ethically
  • With this responsibility, businesses should go beyond narrow requirements of the law
  • E.g. Treatment of suppliers & employees


  • This is the responsibility to give back to society
  • The responsibility is discretionary, but still important
  • E.g. charitable donations, staff time on projects

Evaluating Carroll's CSR Pyramid


  • The model is easy to understand
  • Simple message – CSR has more than one element
  • Emphasises importance of profit


  • Perhaps too simplistic?
  • Should ethics be at the top?
  • Businesses don’t always do what they claim when it comes to CSR

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