Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly prominent in business, yet the definition remains somewhat ambiguous. According to Kuisma, CSR is “a natural, necessary, often inevitable part of corporate values, strategy, risk management” (2017, vi). Holme and Watts – in a WBCSD report – define CSR as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development” (2000, 8).
A difficulty in managing CSR is conflicts may arise whilst employees behave ethically. This occurs as employees have differing values. Differences exist between the firm’s overall objectives and employees. This is a great difficulty as one cannot change the way everyone thinks and what they believe to be right. Additionally, preventing personal opportunism is difficult. Boddy argues this occurs “when individuals pursue an immediate, short-term advantage” (2017: 161) disregarding possible long-term benefits and values. If unpunished, this could be catastrophic for a business and may result in closure. Furthermore, it is difficult to measure CSR. This means that the extent of the effect that CSR has had is subject to interpretation, therefore the true benefits to the company are seen holistically as opposed to within a set structure. This means that ineffective CSR may be implemented if not measured correctly. Moreover, it is difficult to convince stakeholders that resources should be allocated to CSR implementation. If there are a lack of resources, successful effects of CSR are unlikely to be successful, or at least the success will be limited. It can be difficult to integrate CSR into long-term corporate strategy; thus, long-term financial success may be limited by short-term actions to promote CSR. If CSR is not integrated into the strategy, the business risks creating conflicting objectives.
As a manager, I would measure CSR and create reports from this. By applying techniques like SWOT analysis, opportunistic areas can be identified, and threats avoided. This enables risk to be assessed and can help decide which course of action is best to take. This also means that the way CSR is implemented can be evaluated and improvements can be made, thus the actual benefit of CSR can be compared to the expected. I would lead by example. This shows employees how to act and creates an environment where all employees are working towards the same CSR goals. I would also consider hiring employees with similar values that the company aims to promote. This means that there is a common goal between the company and employees, and good people are working for a good cause. Nielsen’s survey shows that 62% of people prefer working for a company who help society (2012). I would also implement a code of ethics and values. This allows the employees something to relate back to before taking a course of action. This should help avoid malpractice as employees can see directly how to act in scenarios. The success of this would rely on top management levels also following the code. To conclude, there are many challenges involved in managing CSR. However, if managed correctly, CSR can help a company succeed. The fundamental difficulty in managing CSR arises due to the inexistence of guidelines for implementation – it is contextual. If managers follow the control process – measuring, comparing, acting to correct and setting targets (Boddy, 2017: 609), then CSR implementation can be controlled and managed to a successful standard.