Corporate Social Responsibility

"There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits."

Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006), American neoclassical economist
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This Business English ESL lesson plan on corporate social responsibility has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is an integration of societal and environmental concerns into a company’s business model. The company aims to help to alleviate some of these concerns either directly through its business operations or by contributing to efforts to solve these problems, for example by arranging volunteering, philanthropy, or awarding grants to community projects. While CSR has an obvious public relations benefit to the company, some have criticised these policies as an attempt to distract customers from unethical practices the company may be involved in. Others have criticised these policies as putting an extra “tax” onto customers who ultimately bear the cost of any expenditure that eats away at a company’s profits. In this Business English lesson plan on corporate social responsibility, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what CSR entails, the benefits of this for business, and whether CSR is the answer to society’s problems.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Corporate Social Responsibility: The Case Against

The article looks at some of the many criticisms that have been made against CSR policies, including going against core business objectives, greenwashing, and a lack of accountability. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk by Wendy Woods called “The business benefits of doing good” which looks at the positive impact businesses can make in society.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including examples of CSR, companies with good reputations for social responsibility and whether profits are the most important thing for a business.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with corporate social responsibility such as stakeholder, brand image and corporate citizenship. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about corporate social responsibility. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as who companies have the most responsibility to, social issues that businesses can help solve, and whether some companies use CSR as a form of greenwashing.


After the class, students will write a short report to their CEO explaining the benefits of CSR and recommending some CSR programmes. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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3 thoughts on “Corporate Social Responsibility”

  1. Hello and thank you!!! I always check this site as it has good topics.
    Just wondering if there was an answer key for the listening section.
    Once again, you are an absolute life saver!

    1. Hi Mathew. As this is a business topic the format is slightly different to the general topics (as I’m assuming business students have a higher level than average). The listening section for business topics is another conversation activity based on the video the students watched, so there’s no answer key; the answer is whatever opinion the student has.

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