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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Worthwhile or Simply Propaganda?

The term Corporate Social Responsibility (hereinafter called CSR) had begun to using since the early 1970s. CSR is a concept that organizations have an obligation to consider the interests of customers, investors, suppliers, regulators, employees, shareholders, communities, special interest, society and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. It goes beyond charity and requires that a responsible company manage the business processes to make sure it impact on society positively and it also takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates for the purpose to maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides.

In this report, we will discuss about the reason that BP, Ford, Ricoh and many others taking CSR so seriously, the significance between CSR and PR, the key publics that the company should take into account in order to improve its performance on social responsibility, the approach companies wishing to implement CSR and whether the major multinational corporations should generally sincere in their effort to be more socially responsibility.

The significance and advantage of CSR
CSR is closely linked with the principles of sustainable development which argues that organization should make decisions based not only on the short-term benefit, such as profits, dividends, interest or margin, but also based on the long-term environmental and social consequences of their activities. It requires the performance of organizations more focus on ‘do the right things’, but not ‘do the things right'. For ‘do the right things’, CSR commitments claim organizations respect on health and safety, environmental protection, human rights, human resource management practices, corporate governance, community development, and consumer protection, labour protection, supplier relations, business ethics, stakeholder rights and so on when making decisions.

Companies can gain so many long-term benefits when they practice CSR in their organization behaviour. Those benefits include boosting internal improvements, gaining competitive advantages, managing risk and protecting reputation, recruiting and retaining a talented workforce and enhancing brand image. For the reasons which I mention above, some world’s leading companies which have already woke up to the win-win situation are taking CSR into account, such as BP, Ford, Ricoh and any other companies.

Let’s look at BP first. BP Company set their new code of conduct in a high standard. It defined that business should be committed to integrity. The code of BP’s operations includes five main parts. There are health, safety, security and environment, business partners, governments and communities, company assets and financial integrity and employee. The new BP code of conduct represents the standards for the way BP behave. It conducts BP people to do the right thing when making the corporation decisions and also improves the performance, reputation and employee so much when implementing the code of conducts.

On the other hand, Ford also implements CSR very well in the company and society. It takes health care and environment into account and claims that economic development should base on the protection of human health and the world's environmental resource. So far, the adoption and enforcement of responsible is the one of the most importance interests for Ford Company. Ford gains so many reputations from its employee and the society.

For Ricoh, the focus of all is respect. It encourages that respect the culture and customs of the countries, respect the areas in which it operates, respect the employees and respect the environment.
As a result, such behaviours create a strong, trusting relationship between the organization and its customers and help the organization achieve the significant effort and making social contributions that are expected of a corporate citizen.

The significance of CSR for Public Relations
PR which is literally called ‘relations with public’ is an intermediary between an organization and all of that organizations public. It responds to the publics who are important to it and harmonizes interests of an organization with those on whom its growth depends. So, when the corporations are implementing the PR activities, they should target to the publics. The publics include pressure group, customers, investors/financial community, media, employees, suppliers, competitors, trade/industry/professional bodies, the community and government. However, recently, CSR plays a big role and become a research priority in PR.Beside from this, the long-term benefit for a company by CSR which I had mentioned above is also the benefit for a company’s PR. Because both of them are none profits activities and the publics which CSR target are nearly including in PR’s publics. So, in a word, CSR is a good tool for a company to done their PR jobs more effectively.

The key publics which are took into account for BP
If I am advising BP on corporate-level public relations, the key publics which I will suggest the company should take into account should be customers, investors/financial community, employees, suppliers, the community and the government. According to the five parties for the code of BP’s operation, the publics which I mention above are the targets it needs to aim at.

Firstly, for the health, safety, security and the environment, it aims to protect the natural environment and insure the people which related to BP are health, safety and security. So, customers and employees are the publics which we need to take into account in this part in order to increase our brand image.

Secondly, for the employees, BP claims fair treatment and equal opportunity and also takes into account in harassment or abuse, protecting privacy and employee confidentiality. Therefore, in this part, employees are a public which we consider to encourage loyal employees and the employees’ ability.

Thirdly, in the business partners part, BP will deal with the issues which are giving and receiving gifts and entertainment, conflicts of interest, competition, trade restrictions, money laundering and working with suppliers in a detailed guidance. So, for this part, we should communicate with our suppliers and investors/financial community to protect the benefits of the company and also to maintain the long-term relationship with them.

Fourthly, for governments and communities’ part, BP takes bribery, governments, community engagement, external communications and political activity into account. As a result, have a good relationship with the government and community is important for our PR plans.

Finally, in the part of company assets and financial integrity, BP focus on protecting company property, intellectual property, insider trading and digital systems. These topics related to employees, investors and customers publics which should be consider in our PR’s plans to protect our company interest.

Four models of public relations and CSR in corporate communication
‘Four models’ approach is the most famous theory for public relations. The models which are taken by Grunig and Hunt are press agentry model, public information model, two-way asymmetric model and two-way symmetric model. According to the characteristics of the four models, the best approach which companies wishing to implement CSR should take to their corporate communication is the two-way symmetric model. Because two-way symmetric emphasis on the respect between the organization and its publics which is different from other models. It Uses communication to negotiate with publics, resolve conflict, and promote mutual understanding. However, CSR commitments also focus on the respect of community, environment and it publics which are more or less with the characteristic of two-way symmetric. So, when implement CSR, company should use the two-way symmetric models to do a good job.

Multinational corporations and socially responsibility
I believed that major multinational corporations are generally sincere in their efforts to be more socially responsible, like BP, Ford and Ricoh. The reason that multinational corporations can be multinational corporations is because they have good brand image, they have good staff, they have good relationship with their shareholders, government, suppliers and community and so on. All of these factors help the companies to maximize the profits and enhance the social image. As a result, multinational corporations need to implement CSR to achieve these goals better or to improve its current performance because CSR is a good tool for multinational corporations to have good relationship with its publics which multinational corporations really need to have.

In conclusion, CSR presents the interests between the organization and its publics. After recognize the information about CSR, we know that company should balance the interest between the company profits and its publics. Because in long-term, CSR will bring a real benefit for a company to improve its internal performance and increase its profits indirectly. So I believed that CSR will become more and more important for every company not only for the multinational corporations. And I also believed that the perspective of CSR for companies and society will affirmative.