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Top 10 Corporate Social Responsibility Courses You Can Take Online

Consumers are increasingly concerned with aligning their values with their spending habits. Areas like labor rights, sustainability, and charitable giving affect a corporation’s brand and reputation with consumers. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is when a business recognizes its influence in society and commits to positive changes. What do CSR strategies look like? Where does a corporation start? For this guide, we examined ten courses on the topic. They are all available online from Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn. All courses can be audited for free, though some may limit material access. For a fee, you can upgrade for complete access, grading, and a certificate. If the fee is too expensive, many courses offer financial aid to students.

#1. Global sustainability and corporate social responsibility: Be sustainable (Macquarie University)
#2. Sustainable Vikings: Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility in Scandinavia (Copenhagen Business School)
#3. Business Strategies for Social Impact (Wharton University of Pennsylvania Online)
#4. The 360° Corporation: Tools for Achieving Corporate Purpose (University of Toronto)
#5. Corporate Sustainability: Understanding and Seizing the Strategic Opportunity (Universita Bocconi)
#6. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): A Strategic Approach (University of Pennsylvania and The Satell Institute)
#7. Discovering Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (Louvain X)
#8. CSR Reporting and Communication (Louvain X)
#9. From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Innovation (Babson X)
#10. Responsible Marketing And The Fundamentals of Corporate Social Responsibility (University of Central Lancashire)

#1. Global sustainability and corporate social responsibility: Be sustainable (Macquarie University)

These days, organizations can’t afford to focus only on profit. Stakeholders expect more. To be competitive internationally, organizations must recognize their societal impact while balancing financial success. This course is part 3 of 4 of the Strategising: Management for Global Competitive Advantage Specialization. It’s also part of the Global Master of Business Administration (Global MBA) degree. Edward Wray Bliss, an Associate Professor in the Department of Management, teaches the course.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the definition and origins of sustainability
  • Analyze the developments of industrialization, neoliberalism, and globalization
  • Examine contemporary business practices and sustainable strategies like CSR and business ethics
  • Learn to develop a sustainable strategy in your organizations

How you will learn

This beginner course is divided into six weeks of study and takes about 27 hours total. Coursework consists of videos, readings, practice exercises, and quizzes at the end of each week. To pass the quizzes, you’ll need at least an 80%. If you’re taking the free audit track, you can view the quizzes, but can’t submit your answers for a grade. At the time of writing, this course had a 4.8/5 user rating.

REGISTER HERE

#2. Sustainable Vikings: Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility in Scandinavia (Copenhagen Business School)

This course introduces students to world-leading sustainability and corporate social responsibility practices. Focusing on Scandinavian firms like Novo Nordisk, which lead the major sustainability and CSR performance indicators, this course examines what managers and firms anywhere in the world can learn. Dr. Robert Strand, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, teaches the course.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the basics of sustainability and CSR
  • Learn why Scandinavia is such an effective example of CSR
  • Examine Novo Nordisk as a case study
  • Reflect on becoming a “sustainable viking”

How you will learn

This beginner’s course is divided into six weeks and takes about 13 hours. Coursework consists of videos, readings, discussion prompts, graded quizzes, and a peer-graded assignment. There are eight quizzes each worth 10% of your grade. The peer-graded assignment, which is a summary and reflection of what was covered in the course, is worth 20%. You’ll also need to review three of your peers’ assignments. You can see the quizzes with the audit track, but to submit anything for a grade, you’ll need to take the paid tier track of the course. At the time of writing, “Sustainable Vikings” had a 4.7/5 user rating.

REGISTER HERE

#3. Business Strategies for Social Impact (Wharton University of Pennsylvania Online)

This course introduces students to the basics of impact investing and creating a business strategy that drives social impact. Students will learn good business practices and innovative, effective strategies for positive social impact. By the course’s end, individuals, organizations, and investors will understand how to lead with purpose. Wharton professors Katherine Klein (Edward H. Bowman Professor Management) and Chris Geczy (Adjunct Professor Finance) teach the course. It’s part 4 of 4 in the Business Strategies for a Better World Specialization.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the importance of purpose-driven leadership using five models of social purpose
  • Learn the methods businesses use to create environmental and social impact
  • Examine how to assess the success of an organization’s social impact
  • Understand impact investing’s risks and rewards

How you will learn

Divided into four weeks, this course takes around 11 hours total to complete. Coursework includes videos, readings, and four 30-minute module quizzes. Each is worth 25% of your grade. While you can see the quiz questions, grading is locked in the paid tier track. To pass, you must receive a 70% or higher. At the time of writing, the course had a 4.6/5 user rating.

REGISTER HERE

#4. The 360° Corporation: Tools for Achieving Corporate Purpose (University of Toronto)

Based on Professor Sarah Kaplan’s course at the Rotman School of Management and book “The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation,” this course introduces students to CSR, sustainability, stakeholder capitalism, and more. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, social responsibility is more important than ever, and this course will help students reexamine the role of business in society. Anyone can benefit from this course, not just people with roles in social responsibility, racial equity, sustainability, and so on. Sarah Kaplan leads the course, which was developed with support from the University of Toronto and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand The 360° Corporation’s four modes of action
  • Identify stakeholder trade-offs
  • Analyze how innovation and experimentation address tougher trade-offs
  • Explore your role as a leader and necessary actions

How you will learn

The course is divided into four weeks and takes around nine hours total to complete. Coursework consists of readings, videos, practice quizzes, discussion prompts, and graded assignments. The graded assignments are weekly reviews each worth 25% of your grade. To pass, you’ll need an 80% or higher. With the free audit track, you can see the review questions but will need to upgrade to the paid track to receive a grade. At the time of writing, the course had a 4.7/5 user rating.

REGISTER HERE

#5. Corporate Sustainability: Understanding and Seizing the Strategic Opportunity (Universita Bocconi)

The UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development calls for balanced economic, social, and environmental development. How do organizations take on the challenge of this call to action while generating business opportunities and value for stakeholders? This course explores how by discussing ideas and examples on CSR and how to transition into new opportunities. Maurizio Zollo, Dean’s Chaired Professor in Strategy and Sustainability in the Management and Technology Department, teaches the course.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the significant global sustainability challenges within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Learn the basics of corporate sustainability, sustainability challenges that businesses face, and opportunities
  • Assess challenges related to managing the integration of sustainability-related processes
  • Learn how to develop a road map for transitions into sustainability

How you will learn

“Corporate Sustainability” is divided into six weeks of study or about 16 hours total. Coursework consists of videos, readings, discussion prompts, and graded assignments. There are five weekly quizzes (each worth 15% of your grade) and a final essay where you must describe a case of a change initiative towards a sustainable enterprise in marketing, HR, governance, or another area from the course. You must review two of your peers’ essays, too. To pass quizzes, you need an 80% or higher. The free audit track lets you see the questions, but to receive a grade and earn a certificate, you’ll need to take the paid track of the course. At the time of writing, the course had a 4.6/5 user rating.

REGISTER HERE

#6. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): A Strategic Approach (The University of Pennsylvania and The Satell Institute)

This edX course is designed for anyone who wants to run a business and make a systemic, positive, and sustainable impact. The tools and knowledge gained can be adapted for many sectors, locations, and community contexts. It’s led by Peter Frumkin, professor at the School of Social Policy and Practice, Research Director at The Satell Institute, and Faculty Director at the Center for Social Impact Strategy.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the CSR landscape and theory
  • Learn how to manage CSR’s effects on the firm’s core functions
  • Explore corporate-community relations
  • Analyze frameworks for assessing CSR

How you will learn

This CSR course is currently archived, but all the materials are still available. Because it’s archived, it’s completely self-paced. You can set weekly learning goals for 1 day a week, 3 days a week, or 5 days a week. Coursework includes videos, discussion questions, quizzes, and forums. The forums aren’t active in the archive, but you can read past discussions.

REGISTER HERE

#7. Discovering Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (Louvain X)

On a global level, companies are investing resources into CSR. In this course, students will learn what CSR is, why it matters, and how to implement strategies. Anyone interested in industry, public policy, or academics working in CSR will benefit. Current and future business leaders will also learn how to embrace responsible leadership and sustainable production. The course is led by Valérie Swaen (Professor, Corporate Social Responsibility and Marketing), Barbara Dupont, and Jessica Lieberman.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand what CSR is, including who the stakeholders are and what criticisms exist
  • Learn about the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Examine how to implement CSR
  • Explore leadership, including adaptive leadership and transformational leadership

How you will learn

When in session, the course takes nine weeks with 5-7 hours a week. After class sessions, the course is archived. Many materials will remain accessible, but discussion forums and any grading are no longer active. Coursework includes videos, interviews, exercises, and case studies of Solvay Group and Nestlé. If you take the audit track during an active session, your access to course materials is limited and expires after about a month.

REGISTER HERE

#8. CSR Reporting and Communication (Louvain X)

As companies spend more time and resources on corporate social responsibility, how do they organize their reporting on performance and activities? How do companies avoid “CSR-washing?” Is everything communicated to all stakeholders? This edX course explores these questions and offers benefits to anyone, including business managers, teachers, and anyone interested in more informed consumer choices. If you’re interested in understanding CSR and examining it with critical thinking, this is a great choice. The instructors are Valérie Swaen (Professor, Corporate Social Responsibility and Marketing), Barbara Dupont, and Jessica Lieberman.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Identify what CSR is and its key issues
  • Explore case studies of different companies on CSR strategy and reporting
  • Learn reporting frameworks, evaluation criteria, and challenges
  • Analyze communication tools and channels

How you will learn

When in session, this self-paced course takes nine weeks with 6-7 hours per week. When a class session ends, it’s archived, but many of the materials are still available. Coursework includes videos, interviews, and multiple-choice quizzes. Because “CSR Reporting and Communication” is an intermediate course, prior knowledge of CSR is helpful. The instructors recommend taking “Discovering Corporate Social Responsibility” first. If you take the audit track during an active session, your access to course materials is limited and expires after about a month.

REGISTER HERE

#9. From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Innovation (Babson X)

As the world gets more complex, the old approaches to philanthropy and corporate social responsibility aren’t enough. Social innovation is on the rise and new methods and strategies are developing. This course brings in the real-world experiences of business leaders leading social innovation efforts and new models for business engagement. Anyone interested in understanding and applying Corporate Social Innovation is welcome, no matter what position you have in your organization. Cheryl Kiser (Executive Director at the Lewis Institute & Babson Social Innovation Lab) and Ken Freitas (Executive in Residence, Social Innovation Fellow at the Lewis Institute Babson College) lead the course.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand the evolution of corporate responsibility
  • Learn management frameworks and how to prioritize
  • Explore how to rethink organizational design
  • Understand sustainability reporting

How you will learn

When in session, this course takes four weeks with 4-6 hours per week. If you take the free audit track, your access to materials is limited (you can’t access any graded materials) and expires after a month. Coursework includes videos, knowledge checks, discussions, and graded field inquiries. After a course session ends, it’s archived, but you can still access much of the material.

REGISTER HERE

#10. Responsible Marketing And The Fundamentals of Corporate Social Responsibility (University of Central Lancashire)

This FutureLearn course explores the significance of responsible marketing, including the theory, principles, and applied examples. Students will learn fundamentals, the purpose of CSR, and engage in discussions with other students on marketing sustainability topics. This course teaches students to apply what they’ve learned to their personal and professional lives. Maria Sherrington (Senior Lecturer in Marketing) and Nicholas Passenger (Principal Lecturer for Business and Marketing) lead the course. A Professor of Waste Management from the School of Engineering facilitates the recycling, plastics, and pollution topics of the course.

What you will learn (excerpt)

  • Understand what CSR is, as well as traditional vs. contemporary CSR
  • Learn how to apply sustainability principles
  • Define responsible marketing
  • Describe responsible consumption

How you will learn

With the free audit track, course access is limited to four weeks. The course is divided into four weeks with 2 hours of study per week. Coursework includes videos, readings, quizzes (which are available when auditing), discussions, and weekly assessments (which are not available when auditing). If you upgrade to the paid track, you get complete access to the course as long as it’s on FutureLearn, as well as a digital and print certificate.

REGISTER HERE

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.