In general, corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be seen as one aspect of business ethics. CSR is connected to business ethics, but the field of business ethics goes beyond CSR. In addition, actions can be ethical without being in accordance with CSR.
One way to define business ethics is to say that ethical actions by a business are those actions that are in accord with moral values. Actions that do not do this are unethical. This means that the subject of business ethics covers a wide range of topics. For example, business ethics might involve the issue of whether it is right to offer bribes in a country where bribery is endemic. It might also involve the issue of whether it is right to make advertisements that are misleading, though not actually false. In short, business ethics is about business people’s actions and whether those actions are good from a moral point of view.
CSR is one aspect of business ethics. CSR has to do with the firm’s actions and their impact on the community as a whole. When a firm acts in accordance with CSR, it is voluntarily trying to do things that will take into account the needs of all its stakeholders. For example, let us imagine that a trucking company wants to be environmentally conscious. It decides that it will do so by buying and operating trucks that have better fuel efficiency even if they are more expensive. It would not be unethical to buy the more common type of truck, but it is in accordance with CSR to buy a truck that goes above and beyond in terms of its impact on the environment.
So, we can say that business ethics is about doing what is morally right while CSR is about taking into account all of a firm’s stakeholders. The two are similar, but not identical.