Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Ethics
Abstract/Introduction -- No one can argue that the international business community is becoming more and more complex as a result of globalism. In turn, this complexity is driven by an increasing understanding of sustainability, going "green," and bringing ethical and moral philosophy into the business community. British Telecom, for instance, noted in 2007 that it had reduced its carbon footprint by 60% since 1996, setting itself a target of 80% reductions by 2016 (Hawser, 2007). Francois Barrault, CEO, BT Global Services, said that by supporting sustainability his company hoped not only to reduce its carbon footprint but also to attract younger people who prefer to work for environmentally and socially responsible companies. He didn't always think that way, though. Barrault said that when he first met former U.S. vice president and environmental activist Al Gore, who showed him pictures of icecaps melting, he thought Gore was crazy. The issue Barrault faced was both intellectual and organizational -- what role does his organization have in the environmental and social responsibility of actions that have an effect on other countries or the world?
Corporate Social Responsibility -- The essence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulated approach integrated into a strategic and tactical business model that assures that organization's compliance with the spirit, ethics, and standards of the law. The goal of business in using CSR is to encourage actions and functions so that it does not become necessary for governmental regulations to force compliance. CSR does this by encouraging community growth, public disclosure and eliminating practices that harm or have the potential to harm society -- whether legal or not. The basis of CSR is doing what is right -- in the public interest while still maintaining corporate growth and profitability. In a way, this harkens back to the Social Contract theories of Rousseau and Locke -- if one does what is right for the individual, then society, one will profit as an organization (Kotler and Lee, 2005).
CSR interacts dimensionally with convergent levels of the environment; physical, social, consumer, and employees, really -- all stakeholders in the organization's milieu. It is most certainly not country or region specific, although there is some strife between the developed and developing world over the issue since the developing world believes it is unfair to hold them to the same standards when the developed world has had hundreds of years after industrialization to prepare, make errors, and atone (Koestoer 2008). Nevertheless, the manner in which CSR is affected by Internet Research, advertising, and as a fundamental privacy issue is huge. From an ethical point-of-view, then, one must ask how the Internet and subsequent technologies must be used in order to keep in line with the basic principle of CSR (Jonker & De Witte (eds.) 2010).
Pro-CSR arguments are, of course, quite obvious. The term began to be popular in the 1970s when so many new multinational corporations formed. Proponents to the idea argue that corporations make far more in long-term proift by operating within a global CSR perspective, allowing for stakeholders to believe that any number of moral and ethical principles are part of the business operation. Too, this idea is tied to the development of business ethics which became particularly visible in the post-1980 world of increased attention to sustainability and the greening of the planet (Pennings, et.al., 2008, 47-50).
There are really no arguments that state CSR is wrong, or that moral and ethical behavior should not translate into business. However, critics often argue that CSR distracts from the economic role of the business organization, and that CSR is nothing more than a preemptive tactice to limit the role of governmental regulation as a watchdog over the large multinationals. In other words, the public dialog is one of CSR, the private strategic plan is either pushing the fiscal limit as long as possible, delaying governmental regulation, or masking the true nature and intent of the organization itself (Visser, et.al., eds. 2008). Some also view the social responsibility of business as that of creating profits for stakeholders, which in turn, trickles down into various other aspects of the local, regional and national community. The more people employed, for instance, the healthier the economic outlook for a particular economic situation (Friedman, 1970).
Further, different dimmensions of CSR affect the robust nature, manner of application, and even public image of the organization. These may be broken down into five major templates:
The physical make up of a particular country, the nature of the demographics and geographical constructs allow for differeing terms like "value-driven CSR;" "stakeholder driven CSR:" or even "performance driven CRSR." In fact, it is this divergence between the developed and developing worlds that tend to cause the most consternation with CSR -- the developed world has already had three centuries of industrialization to arrive at their current position, yet wishes the developing world to follow not their rules, but the global explitives placed upon immigrant populations. This tends to cause cognitive dysfunction between the first and third worlds (Horrigan, 2010).
Social Environment -- Cultural and social environments are similar in many ways to consumer driven paradigms. The social enviornment is driven by sound fiscal management, the ability to react positively in a crisis situation, and the very nature of stakeholder priorities. Corporations are increasingly becoming more and more motivated to become socially responsible because their stakeholders expect them to understand and address the social needs of not only the community, but the global environment as well (Horrigan).
Consumer Paradigm -- For CSR to be effective, it must be embraced by consumers. Over the last several decades, there has been a considered rise in popularity in ethical consumerism that can be inexorably linked to CSR. As the global population rises, so do pressures on the world's natural resources required to meet consumer demans. Because of globalization, industrialization is robust in many nations and consumers are becoming more and more aware of their unique and individual decisions having impact to the environment. While there is little consistence over the globe, more and more consumers are demanding that businesses "go green" (Werther and Chandler, 2010).
Supply Chain Mangagement -- CRS within the global supply chain can be quite complex. At its most robust, it would ensure that appropriate CSR policies and responsibilities are being handled from every vendor, supplier, etc. throughout the entire supply chain. Lessening of this might very well allow most vendors to become part of the process; but as global economies merge, transparency is becoming the watchword and CRS is expected in all countries at all times (Corporate Social Resopnsibility in the Global Supply Chain, 2010.
HR/Employee Relations -- Many see CSR as an aid to both recruitment and retention; particularly in competitive markets in which the best and brightest graduate students are being coddled. It is now quite common for potential employees to ask about a firm's CSR policy during an interview; having such a comprehensive policy cn certainly improve the perception of a company. Additionally, if employees can become involved with fundraising, community volunteering, or some sort of global outreach, they are often far more likley to stay with their current company (Career Service, 2010).
Introduction to Sustainability - One of the basic tenets of corporate responsibility is the understanding of organizations acting as resource managers for the entire planet. Understanding the Gaia concept, or seeing the earth as a living organism -- the forests are the lungs, the wind and waves the blood stream, etc. often gives one pause when thinking about the effect a few thousand years of humanity has had on the Blue Planet. Sustainability, in ecological terms, is the capacity to endure0 it is the way biological systems remain diverse, yet evolving over time. The earth's long-lived and healthy forests and wetlands are examples of this trend. For humans, sustainability is managing the human impact upon the environment in a way that is long-term, less invasive, and ensures the survival of both the human population, the environment, and the social and cultural systems we have developed. Healthy ecosystems and environments provide vital chemicals for our atmosphere, resources for our technological needs, and assist us in agriculture. For an ecologist, it is this trend that is out of balance: overfishing, overuse of the land, killing the forests and polluting the environment. Negative human impact may be reduced on the environment through proper CSR management and conservation or by reducing economic consumption. The process of ssustainability juxtaposes with economic activity through social and ecological consequences. Sustainability economics centers around the integration of cultural, political, economic, and social ideas. It can take many forms, depending on the nature and robustness of the conditions (eco-villages, cities, reappraisals of economic sectors, work practices, etc.) -- all with the idea of using new technologies to adjust with the environment instead of against it (Adams, 2006).
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