Corporate Social Responsibility
CSR or corporate social responsibility has evolved into a phenomenon in today’s corporate world. With the rise of consumer’s concern for the environment and the popularity of green consumerism, it makes you wonder if CSR and its mainstream practices have anything to do with it. CSR policies are often defined as self -regulating mechanisms that ensure a business’s responsibility to its stakeholders are met. However, nowadays, the seemingly good intentions of CSR have been tainted by the corporate world and exploited it for its PR benefits.
In an article entitled, Corporate Social Responsibility: Reports Fail to Prove Business Case, Chris Jarvis (2008) narrated a scene between a CSR manager and his Boss. Boss: “Uh, Jim… you know that Employee Volunteer Program? ” Jim: “Yup. ” Boss: “Well, we need to sort of… downplay it for awhile. ” Jim: “I’m sorry… what? ” Boss: “Yeah… with the financial crisis and all… we’re not really sure where the program is going… you know how it is…. ” Jim: (Incredulous pause. ) “So…. don’t talk about…. my job? ” Boss: Um, well, leave the EVP info out of the newsletter this month…
uh, next month, too….. and then we’ll talk. I’m sure everything will be fine. ” Although this conversation can be criticized by most firms as untrue. However, the sad fact remains that CSR policies, whether they are used as a PR tool or not, are misinterpreted by these firms. Inhis article “Corporate America, Mind Your Business,” Stein (1996) argued that CSR policies became ‘wasteful diversions’ by spending millions of dollars on mega structures that will solve our ecological problems when they could have just made use of their resources more efficiently and ensure the company’s environmental sustainability.
CSR policies are not programs to initiate or advocacy campaigns to promote. Instead, they are policies that should apply to a company’s operations. It is not an opportunity to provide a solution rather it is an initiative to change, change their business practices to increase stakeholders share. CSR policies are not marketing tools to exploit, but an operational tool to take advantage. Corporate Social Responsibility is sensationalized through the use of celebrity endorsements and publicity stunts.
And although this helps in promoting firms alleged causes to make the world a better place, it further illustrates how CSR is used as a PR tool as firms don’t practice what they preach. Christian Aid, recently criticized Shell executives for their hypocoristic behavior. They stated that these companies profess their CSR programs and their commitment to Sustainable Development whilst simultaneously engaging in harmful business practices. The organization claims that the masked attempts of Shell to engage in communities are counter-productive and has worsened relations between the community and the company.
In fact, in a statement released by the organizations, it has “found evidence that Shell’s clean-up of oil spills and repair of pipelines in Nigeria is scandalously inadequate and would never be tolerated in Europe and North America. ” Other companies make use of employee ‘volunteering’ as a part of a CSR campaign that is less ostentatious. But even without nationwide advertising campaigns or events, the very fact that employees are subjected or required to so called “volunteerism”, takes out the very meaning of the act and imparts them with the wrong values.
Good employees make up good companies, but with values such as these, how can you expect a firm to act out of its goodwill rather than just using CSR as a means of further influence or as an HR strategy to help employees feel more fulfilled and thus become more productive. The Body Shop International, a health and beauty company, is an example real CSR. The company itself, from its vision-mission to its product line, promotes environmentally sustainable business practices. And they do more by encouraging their consumers to do the same. Their very foundation was built on social responsibility which makes their firm something to aspire to be.
Although some may criticize that The Body Shop can adopt such strategies since they whole company is anchored on their products being all natural, it’s a niche market that has a lot of opportunity to grow. It is just a marketing stunt as well. I cannot disregard the possibility of such a statement. But the bottom-line is, CSR should not be part of a PR campaign, instead it should be integrated within a business’s operations. There various ways in which a firm can do this, such as maximization of resources and equipment maintenance. Once a firm does these, it can use CSR as a PR tool all it wants.