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Baker (2006) reports that Google has worked hard to balance its entrance into the restrictive media market that is China with its own values. Baker defends this balance by reporting that "the company's contention that it believes it furthers its mission more by being present in China than it does by not is at least a rational response to a set of unpalatable choices." (Baker, 1) Other sources have not been as forgiving, arguing instead that Google's censorship of its search returns according to the demands of the Chinese government is active participation in the repression of information freedom. This denotes that even where a company presents itself as desiring to behave in a responsible and socially conscious way, a certain scale of success can make this an increasingly difficult achievement.
Microsoft has received similar criticism for its attempts at entering into the Chinese software market. However, the bulk of criticism visited upon Microsoft by the media has been for its monopolistic practices in the global software industry, with much coverage being driven by the antitrust proceedings which ultimately distributed the Microsoft empire into smaller units. Here, the public image of Microsoft has been under scrutiny according to Hillis (2007), who reports to efforts on the part of the software giant and its founder, Bill Gates, to soften the public image of a firm demonized for its monopolistic practices. Hillis reports that in addition to improving his public appearance and reaching out with published defenses of his company to the public, "Gates -- the world's richest man with holdings in Microsoft worth about $68 billion as of Wednesday -- has also stepped up the pace of charitable donations in recent months. Contributions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up by Gates and his wife top $20 billion. Coincidentally or not, on Tuesday, as the dust from the ruling was settling, the United Nations said the foundation was giving $57 million to help fight AIDS in four African countries." (Hillis, 1)
For its own part, Google has historically maintained a positive public image, with its explicit anti-evil policy initially gaining it a great deal of positive recognition in the field. However, as it has gained in enormity, it has been difficult to maintain both the reality of this practice and the public impression that it has retained this standard. So reports McHugh (2004), who notes that co-founder Sergey Brin has increasingly faced public scrutiny over inherently significant and complex philosophical questions about Google's role in defining the way the internet is used. McHugh notes "Don't be evil. Brin has had to refer back to those three words quite a bit over the past year. Governments, religious bodies, businesses, and individuals are all bearing down on the company, forcing Brin to make decisions that have an effect on the entire Internet. 'Things that would normally be side issues for another company carry the weight of responsibility for us.'" (p. 1) It is thus that Google's public image has suffered lately, with critics coming from far and wide to describe the company as invasive, violating of privacy and helping to reinforce an economic hierarchy of visited sites on the web.
CSR and Stakeholders:
Both Google and Microsoft have approached their responsibilities to their stakeholders as part of their respective CSR strategies. Accordingly, Microsoft has argued in favor of a proliferation of its software and its corporate presence on a global scale in spite of the obstacles presented in contexts such as China. To its perspective, the service of expanding its consumer base in tantamount to improving global access to computer technology. Moreover, it considers the stake of its investors to be crucially important in protecting the bottom line, making profitability a major imperative. And significantly, Microsoft presents itself to be an extremely progressive employment firm. By its own report, "our 90,000 employees drive our business, and we have a responsibility to create a respectful and rewarding work environment for them." (Microsoft, 1)
Google, similarly, has a reputation of being among the best, fairest and most beneficial of employers. And Google takes a great interest in assisting its own business partners through certain charitable programs. For instance, "Google Grants is an in-kind donation program awarding free AdWords advertising to select charitable organizations. Since its inception, we have supported hundreds of organizations in advocating and promoting their causes, from animal rights and literacy to abandoned children and HIV education." (Google, 1)
The discussion here denotes that in the face of a globally shifting market context, it can be extremely difficult to maintain a balanced code of ethics. An emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility such as that demonstrated by Microsoft and Google, however, can help to sustain a positive image, media portrayal and relationship with all manner of business acquaintance. This resolution informs the consequent recommendations for a firm such as the Gamma Corporation. Indeed, Gamma finds itself at the same crossroads as so many other firms operating in today's market, with the challenges of a globalizing economy requiring ever more proficient modes of internal control for competing companies. For Gamma, the approach taken by Microsoft in particular provides several dimensions for improvement in this area. Namely, Gamma can work toward the improvement of its public image by contributing more aggressively to positive health initiatives or efforts to stamp out poverty and, subsequently, can engage actively in PR campaigns designed to inform the public of its selective participation in such socially responsible activities.
Additionally, Gamma should consider this as an opportunity to conduct an extensive internal review of its practices to ensure that all ethical interests are met through the work of its employees and departments. This recommendation is drawn from the understanding that CSR implies both positive citizenship within broader communities or markets and, simultaneously, a more sound and accountable operation within.
Finally, and of great importance, are the implications of the dilemma raised for Google as it seeks to move operations into China. Here, we are inclined to recommend that Gamma evaluate its goals in international market contexts before seeking to enter certain marketplaces. As the Google matter demonstrates, there may be public relations consequences to choosing partnership with certain nations. As Gamma explores the prospect of global expansion, it must find ways to accord itself that are consistent with its values and its pledge to act as a responsible corporate citizen. Ultimately, this will also serve to protect Gamma from the perils of uncertainty and instability that may accompany entering into such market contexts.
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