As large corporations begin to dominate the world economy, it raises questions about the importance of corporate social responsibility in business. A variety of types of corporate social responsibilities have emerged in public discussions, and understanding their implications is important.
People expect businesses to exhibit environmentally responsible behaviour, as evidenced by a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey that found that the No. 1 issue for companies in the future, according to U.S. respondents, is carbon emissions reductions. Specific environmental issues that affect businesses include global warming, sustainable resources and pollution. Businesses are being urged by environmental groups and governments to reduce their carbon footprint, to obtain their materials from sustainable sources and to reduce their pollution.
Human Rights Responsibility
The 21st-century marketplace is highly global. This means that when a product is purchased in the United States, for example, it may have been produced in China, or have components from South America. The ethical issue for corporations is ensuring that human rights are respected throughout all levels of the supply chain. Major companies have received criticism for their use of sweat shops and for sourcing resources that are harvested by unfairly treated workers. This has lead to a push for the use of strict labour standards to be applied to suppliers, and a demand for fair trade products such as chocolate and coffee.
Financial responsibility is an important issue in corporate social responsibility. In the wake of the accounting fraud perpetrated by Enron and Arthur Andersen and Ponzi schemes orchestrated by the likes of Bernie Madoff, businesses are questioned about the accuracy of their financial reporting by increasingly sceptical shareholders and government officials, as evidenced by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Employees are expected to act as whistle blowers in such situations, and white collar crime is seeing high-profile prosecutions like that of Martha Stewart or former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers.
Trading with repressive regimes is a difficult issue in corporate social responsibility. Some businesses argue that working with these regimes will help to advance them and bring rights to the countries. People and governments have demanded that businesses stop trading with repressive regimes, which was most notably observed when several western governments launched an embargo against the Apartheid government in South Africa during the 1980s. Shell Oil received considerable consumer backlash during the 1990s for its complicit involvement with the Nigerian government that murdered anti-oil activists. These issues make doing business with certain governments an important consideration for corporate social responsibility.
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Business Ethics; Alexei Marcoux; April 2008
- BBC; Shell Settles Nigeria Deaths Case; June 2009
- Environmental Leader; Emissions Reductions is Top Environmental Concern for U.S. Businesses; May 2010
- Online Lawyer Source: Recent Cases of White Collar Crime
- "Corporate Responsibility"; Michael Blowfield, et. al.; 2010