December 07, 2006

How to judge CSR

Today we had a session on CSR (cooperate social responsibility) and ethic. This session makes me think a lot about what is going on around the world. So what do CSR and ethic mean for us? When we judge BMW that has developed a high performance car (M5:V10, 5L) and sells it to the market, it is seemed not socially responsible due to the high fuel consumption and potentially dangerous on the road. Do we really understand what is CSR and ethic? In other word have we been socially responsible and ethical? I think the answer is ‘maybe not’. Did we realise that when an automotive company develops a new top range engine or a model, how much did they push the advanced technology level up? How many new employment opportunities have been created from varies parts of this model? And how much taxation has been generated from both the company and their customers? Or even broadly how much the automotive culture has been developed by this model? Are we still thinking this is not socially responsible? Another example we discussed this afternoon is the tobacco company. We all think that Tobacco Companies are not socially responsible. Did we ever think about how many jobs tobacco companies generate, did we ever think about how much taxation has been generated by tobacco trading? Perhaps everyone knows about how tobacco could damage our healthy, but did we all realise how tobacco could also make someone’s life much better? A lot of tobacco companies already put warning notes on their product ‘smoking seriously damage your healthy’. Can we still say they are not socially responsible? As we all know, the famous Great Wall in China which is regarded as one of the greatest symbols in the human civilization history. The culture and historical value of the Great Wall in human world is uncountable. However, how about the people who built the Great Wall in 3000 years ago? Did they think the great wall is socially responsible? Perhaps not.

Consequently, before we judge whether any organization or company are socially responsible or not, we need to know that the pure ethic and CSR are not even exist in this world. There is always a conflict between one side and the other. For instance, in the BMW’s case, by compromising all the social responsibilities, choosing to develop the new M5 would have an overall better social effect. Therefore, the BMW decided to produce it. In my opinion, any organizations which provide employment opportunities, pay taxations, and encourage the social developments have already been socially responsible. What they need to also concentrate on is whenever they doing any projects, they need to always think about the overall CSR as a key factor for the production.

Moreover, as an individual, especially academics, we also need to be socially responsible when we make any judgements on the companies. For instance, if we unilaterally judge an organization as it has not been socially responsible. We could cause an even more serious irresponsible result for the society. For instance, if we banned all the tobacco companies because they have not been socially responsible, how many people will lose their job by this? How much funds (taxation) we will lose every year for the NHS? If there are huge percentages of population in one part of the world lost their job, perhaps they could even become terrorists. Therefore, who is more likely to become socially irresponsible?

All these CSR matters require us to have a holistic view about CSR and ethic. As longer as we have an ethical attitude of CSR and a positive willingness to put this attitude in our behaviour, together we could make our world better.

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. everything has two sides, no exception at all. We dont need to just take one side while completely denying another one, what we should do is to find the balance point, like your example of tabacoo company.

    07 Dec 2006, 23:21

  2. Interesting point about the system view of everything. However, I can’t say I agree with the tobacco company example. Many companies which produce cosmetics are doing tests on animals, but they provide many jobs and give money to charities. Many pharmaceutical companies are doing tests on people whithout letting them know beforehand what impact this might have on them, provide many jobs and give money to charities. Not forgetting that often Africa is their “laboratory”. It is not only about providing jobs and about paying taxes – weapons companies do both, but can we say they are socially responsible??? Probably depends on the individual. In my view, CSR is going beyond providing jobs and paying taxes – it’s also about making products that are good for the environment, making them in a way that is good for the environment – and not only consider whether you can sell it at a profit and disregard that it might be a nuclear weapon or an electric collar for a “misbehaving” dog.

    09 Dec 2006, 21:39

  3. Dear Andreja,
    Thanks for your comments. However, I think there may be some misunderstandings from your comments. As I said in the blog, there is not any pure CSR and ethic exist in this world. We are in the multi-system environment simultaneously. It is very difficult for any individual to compromise. However what we need is to have an ethic heart and holistic view of the multiple systems, and then choose the best process for the society (the largest system) both in the short-term and long-term. We all have to agree there isn¡¯t 100% right and wrong in this world. People lives so differently. Understandings of ethic are also different in different people¡¯s mind. Therefore, I think it is the ethic thought that counts for us.

    10 Dec 2006, 17:36

  4. hi wan,
    thanks very much for your comments, maybe it is a kind of chinese thought that we all share.

    10 Dec 2006, 17:38

  5. The thing that really stuck out of your blog for me was the tobacco companies example, and I basically concentrated on that. The owners invest their capital into a company that produces cigarettes, but they have a choice – they could have invested it into something else. They still can – as you say it is not black and white and if tobacco companies chose to be more ethical, it would not neccessarily mean they would need to lay off people. They make money on children’s health – millions of children develop serious lung diseases mainly because they live in a smoking home. It is the responsibility of the parents, but the companies making those products need to take their share as well. And putting stickers on it doesn’t really count – they have to do it by law, otherwise the state would punish them – it is not their own ethical sense that makes them do it.

    11 Dec 2006, 08:25

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