Purpose – Corporate social responsibility (CSR)-based strategies have become important concepts in dealing with firms' stakeholders. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the processes of stakeholder legitimacy and interest detection, namely ethical considerations and community obligations, to promote CSR as an intangible strategic asset. Design/methodology/approach – The two relatively large service-based firms (contrasting not-for-profit with for-profit) that were selected for study were Pittsburgh-based, namely the largest single employer of the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh (The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)) and WESCO, a distributor of electrical construction products and electrical and industrial maintenance products and the largest domestic provider of integrated supply services. Findings – It was found that the management teams at UPMC and WESCO approach CSR-based strategies and its initiative from completely different perspectives. UPMC functions a not-for-profit organization while WESCO is a for-profit entity. They also approach CSR differently as a result from its geographically based service and product offerings, UPMC being more local/regional and WESCO going for global markets. These differences promote differences in the groups and types of CSR that each company is currently engaged in promoting. Originality/value – The paper demonstrates that both not-for-profit and for-profit entities have a reason to be socially responsible, whether they are local or global firms. The overarching fact is that consumers expect firms to be conscience of the social concerns of the community in which they operate and socially responsible to the various stakeholder groups they serve.