Whenever business, commerce, and economic acitivity is discussed – in these times – it cannot be helped that there should be a discussion in corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is a big thing these days but so much is misunderstood and muddled.
Let us start with its definition. Corporate social responsibility is a company policy that functions as a self-regulatory and guiding mechanism for the company in its corporate and its ethical practices and activities in relation to its community, its clientele, among its individuals and personnel, and the environment – ultimately, to the world, as a whole. The rationale behind its establishment and implementation may vary from an honest desire to truly responsive and beneficial to people and to the planet, to pre-empt government regulatory policies and actions, to ensure acceptability to the international business community.
However, through the years, certain unscrupulous companies have “bastardize” the concept and have turned it into a scheme to ingratiate themselves to the public without practicing the true essence of CSR. They organize and conduct philanthropic campaigns and projects under the guise of CSR but, in truth, is exploiting the concept for its own corporate agenda.
These so-called goodwill actions capitalize on some deficiency or inadequacy in the public with the purpose of improving the company’s financial status or profit margin. Examples of these are:
- Promising to donate a portion of the sales income to some charitable or worthwhile organization, cause, or movement. This will encourage kind-hearted people to patronize the company’s products or services, thereby increasing its corporate revenue and, at the same time, decrease their tax liability due to the donation. Recently, there are now even more unscrupulous tactics where not only will there be a partial donation of the generated income but the donation will be made to an entity (such as a foundation) that has been established or somehow under the “control” or supervision of the company – so the money never left its control.
- Setting up some kind of community project, like a children’s learning center or a skills development facility. The continued support to the project ensures or insures the company against reprisals – like putting up and supporting a sports development program but violating a government regulation and “threatening” to withdraw funding.
- Sponsoring drives purporting to help the less fortunate by asking altruistic souls to donate then delivering the donations under the name of the company. This gives the beneficiaries the impression that the company is concerned and that the donation comes from them.
All these supposed manifestations of CSR have one thing in common – there is a lot of publicity generated, and it is all for free (at little or no expense to the company, unless the company happens to be or own a mass medium, like broadcast or print). Of course, I am not saying that all such corporate actions are for show and that there is malice intent on their part. Many are truly noble and praiseworthy but, like often, it is the actions of a few “bad apples” that spoil everything for the rest. And, more often than not, it is the ones that do and practice CSR in silence and obscurity that are the ones that are truly socially responsible.
True CSR do not publicize its activities; it does not engage in the so-called “(self-)praise release”. As instructed in the Holy Scriptures, whatever good the right hand is doing, let not the left hand know about it.
One final note, the rampant practice of using celebrities to endorse products and services are not only insulting to the public and making the celebrity look cheap and uninformed, it is a sign that the product or service being peddled is worthless, otherwise the product or service would not need the services of the personality. And, in the event that the product or service will be proven not only to be harmful to human (physical, mental, and spiritual) health but also to the environment and charges and suits will be filed against the manufacturer, the defendants should include any and all endorsers. After all, the endorser is complicit to the peddling of the product or service that harmed the public. The endorser is equally liable, legally and morally.
Moreover, businesses should not be given rights nor juridical recognition unless they too shall suffer the same penalties and fines that individuals too. In other words, if a company product or service causes any person to be harmed (say disabled or killed), just like when someone who harms or kills another has to pay fines and/or suffer imprisonment, the corporate individual (along with the top management) must, likewise, be subject to the same treatment.
P.S.: Since this blogger is not one with formal training in legalese (like lawyers), please excuse the last two paragraphs should there be lapses and wrong choices of words to express the intended sentiment or meaning. I am confident that you will get what this blogger is trying to convey.