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As a student at a B-School near Boston, I constantly grappled with the idea of ethics; what it means to be moral in a world motivated by self-interest. I read case studies where I realized that companies struggle with these concepts themselves. When the bottom line begs you to pick the revenue-surging Option A, would you dare even consider the environmentally friendlier but less profitable Option B? At the end of the day, don’t we all simply want the best possible deal that we could get? How does one find the strength to stay true to their morals?

One windy January night, I got one step closer to framing an answer. I had met a friend for dinner at a Chinese place known for their portion sizes in Harvard Square. When we called for the check, I requested the waiter to wrap up my leftover shredded lamb with garlic sauce and chicken fried rice. Then, I dropped my friend off at the T station and proceeded to walk towards the bus stop. I noticed a homeless woman sitting outside Starbucks. She was frail and white-haired, and by the looks of it, a strong gust of wind would manage to displace her. She held a sign board that read — Have not eaten for 2 days, please help.

I walked towards her confidently and offered my leftover food to her. Needless to say, I was proud of myself for being so charitable. She looked at me with calm eyes and asked what was in the bag. I told her. Upon hearing my answer, she gave the bag back to me and smiled. “Actually, I’m vegetarian, but thank you”.

I was taken aback by her nonchalant rejection. Here was a woman, starving and with no access to food, saying no to a perfectly good meal simply because it went against her principles. I walked away from that interaction feeling a little light-headed and very stupid. Stupid, because I had underestimated the strength of sheer willpower, and light-headed, because I felt as though some deep, proverbial sense had been knocked into me.

Here’s what that particular day helped me realized: believing strongly in something, whether it be an idea or a value, gives you the strength you need to stick to your guns. When the situation arises where there is need for you to make compromises, then you have to examine how important that value, that idea is to you. If it’s important enough, you will find a way to make it work.

That is why I feel that corporations need to look at corporate social responsibility or CSR, not as a chore, but as a lifelong commitment that is reflective of their moral and ethical principles. Only then can we fulfill our CSR promises, the way that they were intended to be fulfilled.

Greeshma Rajeev is a recent graduate from the University of Bentley she is now a member of the Outreach & Operations team at ConnectFor.

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