When Corporate Social Responsibility is real, not cosmetic

Monday, 3 september 2018 | Brenda Rodríguez López

More and more companies are betting on implement policies on Corporate Social Responsibility. This concept reflects a growing trend within the business world. However, its implementation does not always pursue the appropriate goals, respond to a right approach or show coherence with the rest of the business activity. The lack of care, depth, interest or correspondence concerning CSR is not only detrimental to the positive impact of companies outside, but it can  also bring about the missing of business opportunities and benefits. Implementing it inadequately can even be counterproductive for companies themselves. What factors are decisive when it comes to betting on CSR policies? Why is it crucial for companies to carry out a good and efficient management of corporate responsibility?

 

For a long time, companies had only been considered as exclusively economic agents. This approach focusing on the more pragmatic nature of companies left out of the equation something crucial: their great ability to exert influence on other spheres. This reductionist view now seems obsolete. Nowadays, there are few people who question the role of companies in society.  Both corporate culture and business activity have a direct and forceful impact on areas as diverse as  labor and employment policies, the prevention and protection of health, the environmental care and the development of its legislation as well as the promotion of new movements and cultural trends.

Companies are increasingly valued for being important agents of change in the environment which surrounds them, since they are capable of influencing different dimensions and determining a new course to follow. Their potential is such that they appear as key organisms in the achievement of the Social Development Goals (SDGs). Of course, this generalized awareness of their new role in society has been key to their behavior being more subject than ever to the external judgment, not only from a legislative perspective, but also from an ethical one. The company activity is a reflection of the corporate values, and these ones are increasingly important for customers, especially for the younger generations.

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was born in the nineties as a result of this change in mindset and the growing interest of citizens in the corporate behavior. It offers a new perspective that defends the responsible management of companies, taking into account their impact inside and outside them and a marked sense of ethics. Since then and over the years, CSR has begun to occupy a prominent place in the strategic planning of companies, but, what happens if the company approach is weak or pretended? What happens if the implementation of CSR policies is not strong and effective?

Why bet on a real and not feigned CSR?

Although the vision of corporate responsibility has evolved as time goes by, many companies still do not understand why the good management of this concept is crucial for their successful future.  They are not aware of the effect that a real and effective commitment to CSR can have on them, nor the consequences of betting on a superficial CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility not only has a positive effect on the world that surrounds it, but it also brings great benefits to companies themselves. Although sometimes they are more difficult to quantify than other returns, they are also tangible.

Corporate Social Responsibility:

  • Completes and enriches the goals of companies
  • Contributes to the increase in investment
  • Is attractive. It attracts and retains talent
  • Greatly improves the reputation of companies
  • Is profitable
  • Makes it possible for companies to be more competitive and sustainable
  • Achieves the increase in the level of credibility and, therefore, consumers' trust
  • Reduces risks and costs
  • Allows staff to identify more with the companies
When Corporate Social Responsibility is real, not cosmetic

Consequences of a weak or mistaken bet on RSC

As we mentioned before, not all companies are aware of the importance of taking care of responsible management and, therefore, some of them do not worry about the soundness of their plan. In some occasions, the CSR company approach can be weak or incorrect. When the implementation of these strategies is poor or careless and only pursues to offer a good image campaign, it can have a positive short-term economic performance, but it might eventually lead to the loss of consumers' trust or even the commitment of investors, collaborators and workers. Something similar happens when companies are not coherent and do not assume or care about the impact which their business activity has. For example, a company that is dumping toxic products into a river and, at the same time, in its CSR plan, speaks up for the protection of the environment,   is in danger of suffering a serious reputation crisis.

Corporate Social Responsibility cannot be understood if it is not based on a deep sense of ethics. When its bet is not real but cosmetic, it can be effective in the short term, but it does not hold up over time. It is therefore important for companies to become aware of the impact that CSR has both outside and inside their own doors. Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility in an effective way requires a strong ethical commitment and a solid approach that, in turn, is transversal. What does it matter that a company invests 0.7% of its capital in CSR, if it does not take care of the design of the projects which promotes and does not worry about their result? What does it matter if a company strives for social projects, when it neglects the rights of its workers? Responsible management needs ethics as an engine. Without values or transversality, CSR consist of just a statement of good intentions.

The pillars supporting our business school are leadership and ethics. Both concepts cannot be understood without the existence of each other, because in our opinion they are complementary, and also necessary to face the digital and global environment of the current business world. At The CEU IAM School we are aware of the magnitude of the challenges faced by today's managers, this is the reason that led us to design our Global MBA: a training course adapted to the current business world whose goal is to train leaders to be able to overcome obstacles with success, and always betting on clear values and remarkable ethics.