Saturday, 6 March 2010

How viable is CSR?

"Corporate Social Responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it...because it is good for our business". - Niall Fitzerald, Former CEO, Unilever

Is CSR philanthropy? It is indeed hard to differentiate between philanthropy and CSR. I believe it should be defined as philanthropy that leads to sustainable development. In other words, while philanthropy concentrates on one or few stakeholders, CSR on the other hand should be a concept that touches on all the stakeholders. Hopkins says that most philanthropic acts by organizations are devoted to items that governments should be doing and government's failure should not be the preserve of corporations (p.114). Companies like Vodafone, Cadbury invest in CSR and have been successful in implementing it.

So then, is CSR mere window-dressing?
Is the effort to practice CSR just skin deep? CSR steadily moved up Corporates' agenda with the notion that it delivers direct benefits to the organization. If so, how then can companies convince stakeholders that practises associated with social and environmental issues aside from their business are ethical?

Cutlip et al. seems to be clear that any involvement in CSR is as a result of self-interest, to enable the company to have an easy life by indicating that an institutions relationship with its community is crucial because these communities supply the organization's workforce, provide an environmnet that attracts or fails to attract talented personnel, provide essential services and can, if angered, impose restraints on the institution or industry (p. 393).

The onus is left to the company to determine their main objective of engaging in CSR. Some companies like Nike and Johnson and Johnson have been noted as engaging in CSR to regain their reputation after crises.

Cutlip, S.M. et al. (2000). Effective Public Relations (8th ed.), Prentice Hall
Hopkins, M. (2007). Corporate Social Responsibility and International Development: Is Business the Solution?

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