The concept of corporate social responsibility has gradually evolved over the past couple of decades, with the rapid increase in business rivalry and cut-throat competition in the corporate world. Economic viability is no longer sufficient for an organization to be successful in the long-run. Other critical factors have emerged, each of which has an important role to play in determining whether a firm would be able to grow over time. In particular, it has become imperative for corporate houses to recognize their responsibilities towards the society as well as the importance of pursuing ethical and transparent business policies. This is where the value of corporate social responsibility, or CSR, comes to the fore.
Broadly speaking, CSR includes all the duties and responsibilities that a business organization is required to pursue in order to achieve a balanced growth over the years. According to the CSR pyramid, a firm is faced with four such types of responsibilities. Economic responsibilities come first, for a firm must generate enough profits to be even able to turn its attentions towards other issues. Next up are the legal responsibilities of the firm, which specify the set of rules and regulations that organizations need to abide by. Following an honest and uniformly transparent set of business policies falls under the ethical responsibilities of a firm. Finally, once all these three sets of responsibilities are fulfilled, an organization can pursue certain discretionary responsibilities, which entail it to perform such actions that would contribute to the overall welfare of the society.
It would be erroneous, however, to assume that management bodies of organizations can successfully follow all the requisite CSR policies on their own. The employees of a firm, in fact, have a crucial role to play in this regard. In particular, the Human Resources (HR) departments of organizations need to be proactive in identifying CSR requirements and updating the management about the same. Employees also need to be continuously kept in the loop regarding the CSR policies that their organizations are pursuing. Regular interaction between employers and the recruits on these issues would help the latter feel truly involved in the management process of the firm. A well-organized set of CSR norms also results in the maintenance of a healthy work environment in a firm, which, in turn, boosts employee-productivity levels and lowers attrition figures.
CSR policies are also instrumental in helping organizations establish a positive goodwill in the markets. With the degree of competition increasing by the day, corporate goodwill is, beyond doubt, the most valuable intangible asset that firms hope to achieve. Employees should, ideally, be given enough opportunities to voice their opinions regarding the policies that their firms are undertaking. This would also help organizations get a fair idea of the expectations that the workers have from the management bodies. While high profit figures keep the ball rolling for any company, organizations can ignore the value of the opinion of its workers at their own peril. A good case in point would be the example of Wal-Mart, which boasted of consistently healthy profit figures but had a poor record as far as its human resource policies were concerned. This resulted in high employee turnover figures at the firm, which ultimately forced the firm to address the issue by taking up its CSR responsibilities more seriously.
Employees also take immense pride in working for a firm that is known for its properly specified and well-pursued set of CSR policies. Indeed, surveys have shown that, in CSR-compliant firms, employees are much less inclined to switch jobs than those working for organizations that neglect CSR-related issues. A more active role can also be played by the employees on this front, if an organization decides to follow a proper ‘whistleblower’ policy. In such cases, workers would have full rights to report to the management whenever (s)he feels that CSR norms are being violated within the company. Of course, the management needs to ensure that the ‘whistleblower’ is protected against future backlashes from colleagues, simply because of his/her actions in this regard.
A firm that is hypocritical about its CSR policies also faces problems in maintaining its position in the market and recruiting new employees. For long, Bodyshop, a renowned manufacturer of natural beauty and cosmetics, had specifically maintained the fact that its products are not tested on animals as its main USP. However, when animal extracts were detected in the products of Bodyshop, the company had to track back on its initial corporate statement and even had to change the main tagline for the firm. Such inconsistent stands on CSR issues automatically gives off negative vibes about the concerned company. Employees can, and should, make the management aware of the dire consequences that such pretentious CSR statements can have on the image of the firm in the long run.
In a nutshell, organizations, in addition to registering high profit figures, have to sincerely follow their CSR responsibilities, particularly in the present-day world. Employees, on their part, have an extremely important role to play in helping their companies stay on the right track as far as such CSR activities are concerned.