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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Social Justice for All

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????????? ??????????????? ????????: a socially responsible company, a company with a conscience

Three cheers for corporate social responsibility. Yes, I know: folks who head corporations instead of writing columns say that companies should put their efforts into running their businesses and let someone else solve society's problems. But I say, if a company has money to spend, let it spend it on a good cause.

But I wish they didn't talk about it. For every CEO giving a PowerPoint presentation on the company's philanthropy, there is a translator weeping in the corner.

You wouldn't think this would be hard. The rich, pre-revolutionary Russian tradition and lexicon of philanthropy ended in 1917, and the new breed of corporate do-gooders are using English as their guide. So corporate social responsibility is ????????????? ?????????? ???????????????. ?????????? ?????????????? is social justice. ?????????? ???????? are social problems.

When you come across the phrase ?????????? ?????, you think to yourself, "No brainer -- social sphere." But in Russian, this encompasses ??????? ??????, ???????????, ????????, ???????????????, ?????????? ???????????, ???????????? ???????, ???????????? ????????????, ???????????? ?????????, ????? (consumer services, education, culture, health care, social services, restaurants and cafes, utilities, passenger transportation and communication). In English, "social" is usually narrower in scope, especially in the context of corporate activities.

In a Russian town, the local factory might be doing activities that in the U.S. would be carried out by religious groups, nongovernmental organizations, community volunteers, the town government, business associations, state social services departments and the education board. So you need to decipher the reality behind the Russian words.

?????????? ???????? ???????? ???????????? ????? ??????? ????????????? ?????????? ???????? (literally: the company's social policy consists of corporate social programs) might be more understandable to an English-speaker with a descriptive translation: The company's social policy is implemented via corporate programs designed to improve conditions in the local community.

The ubiquitous word "community" comes in handy, especially when you want to avoid the meanings of "social" connected with socializing or gregarious personalities. ?????????? ?????? translated as "social centers" might suggest a club where the workers kick back with a brew after a hard day at the widget factory. In Russian, they are more likely to be offices that conduct grant competitions and oversee aid programs. Depending on the context and what they do, you might try "community aid or outreach centers."

And then there's plain old "philanthropy." This might be less sexy than the new corporate mumbo jumbo, but that's what ?????????? ???????????? (literally: social activity) is. ???? ?????????? ?????? ?????????? ?? ?????????? ???????? ???????. (The mission of our program in philanthropy is to ensure sustainable local development.)

The modifiers of all these social programs can also make the translator's fingers hover over the keyboard. ?? ???????????? ???????????? ????????? ???????? ???????????? ???????. (We support long-term local projects that will have a significant impact on the community; literally: socially significant projects.) When a company calls itself ????????? ??????????????? (literally: socially oriented), it means that it aims to benefit society at large, not just their owners or shareholders. ???? ????? -- ??? ????????, ????????? ??????????????? ????????. (Our company works for the people and is socially responsible.)

To clarify what this means, the company added: ??? ?? ??????? ?? ???????? ????? ?????. (It doesn't chase after profit at any cost.)

I guess this is great for the community, but it might be confusing for the shareholders.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.