Estimated reading time 3 min

Corporate social responsibility encompasses data

Data has become one of the world’s most valuable raw materials and resources in business and, as such, it should be examined as part of the sustainability and responsibility of business operations. Sitra, FIBS and a group of trailblazing Finnish companies are building a bridge between data and corporate social responsibility.



Traditionally, corporate responsibility is divided into economic, social and environmental responsibility. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is linked to human rights, sustainable development, social factors and good governance.

The importance of data in business has grown significantly. For example, the use of data by companies has come under close scrutiny, as an increasing number of customers demand more transparency in how companies collect and use data as well as an opportunity to influence the use of their data. In an international survey commissioned by Sitra, 42 per cent of the respondents felt that a lack of trust towards service providers prevents them from using digital services.

In an ideal world, the fair use of data creates a new competitive advantage for a company. In genuinely human-driven business, the sustainable use and management of data is an essential part of CSR. But the process of defining the relationship between data and CSR is still in its early stages.

Sitra began to investigate, define and delineate this topic in co-operation with FIBS and a few dozen pioneering companies in making data part of CSR. The ideas developed in these workshops have been collected in the Sitra publication “Corporate social responsibility encompasses data”. Written in the form of a memo, the publication presents three theses for companies interested in data-responsible business as well as a few case studies from existing business activities.

There is a clear need to incorporate the use of data into corporate social responsibility. Data responsibility is considered a phenomenon that overarches all areas of CSR. The journey is just beginning and there is much more work to be done. More pioneering companies are needed to join the effort.

Corporate social responsibility encompasses data
This publication is based on the results of a series of workshops on making data part of CSR co-ordinated by Sitra and FIBS between February and June 2020 and the ideas developed in the workshops. The workshops were attended by representatives of dozens of companies of various sizes and of public-sector organisations in Finland.

IHAN Fair data economy project
Sitra has worked on making data part of CSR as part of the IHAN® Fair data economy project. The project promotes a more viable European service market where data flows more freely, seamlessly, transparently and under a common set of rules between companies of various sizes and other parties. In a human-driven fair data economy, people have the right to privacy and convenient control over their own data. At the same time, people also have the opportunity to share their data with companies that can provide them with increasingly personalised services.

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