The Boundaries Of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility

8567 words - 34 pages

Keywords: Corporate strategy, Social responsibility, Roles, Stakeholders, EthicsAbstract: Reviews the development of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) conceptand its four components: economic, legal, ethical and altruistic duties. Discusses differentperspectives on the proper role of business in society, from profit making to communityservice provider. Suggests that much of the confusion and controversy over CSR stemfrom a failure to distinguish among ethical, altruistic and strategic forms of CSR. On thebasis of a thorough examination of the arguments for and against altruistic CSR, concurswith Milton Friedman that altruistic CSR is not a legitimate role of business. Proposesthat ethical CSR, grounded in the concept of ethical duties and responsibilities, ismandatory. Concludes that strategic CSR is good for business and society. Advises thatmarketing take a lead role in strategic CSR activities. Notes difficulties in CSR practiceand offers suggestions for marketers in planning for strategic CSR and for academicresearchers in further clarifying the boundaries of strategic CSR.IntroductionIt is no news that today's business organizations are expected to exhibitethical behavior and moral management. However, over the past half centurythe bar has been steadily raised. Now, not only are firms expected to bevirtuous, but also they are being called to practice ``social responsibility'' or``corporate citizenship''(Carroll, 2000, p. 187), accepting someaccountability for societal welfare. Marketers, as boundary spannersresponsible for the enterprise's dealings with various publics, have a primaryinterest in, and should take a major role in, defining and implementing theirfirm's social responsibility efforts. Unfortunately, too frequently marketersstill focus solely on their products and markets while neglecting the socialimpact of their activities (Flores, 2001).Perhaps this is because the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR)is a fuzzy one with unclear boundaries and debatable legitimacy. Thepurpose of this paper is to clarify the CSR concept by offering an historicalperspective on CSR, reviewing the different viewpoints on the role ofbusiness in society, and distinguishing three types of CSR: ethical, altruisticand strategic, thereby establishing parameters for its practice. I argue that forany organization ethical CSR (avoiding societal harms) is obligatory, for apublicly-held business altruistic CSR (doing good works at possible expenseto stockholders) is not legitimate, and that companies should limit theirphilanthropy to strategic CSR (good works that are also good for thebusiness). I conclude with suggestions for marketers and others responsiblefor strategic CSR as well as for further research.The legitimacy of CSR relates to a set of fundamental and crucial questions:Why do corporations exist? Should enterprises also be concerned with theirsocial performance as well as economic results? If so, what does it mean tobe ``socially...

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