What is Corporate Social Responsibility

Also known as CSR it comprises of 10 areas:

– Reputation and Trust
– Values
– The environment (climate change, pollution and resource use)
– Health and well being (decease, malnutrition and quality of life)
– Population and Demographics (affluence, education and consumer trends)
– Human rights and diversity (labour standards, working conditions)
– Transparency and accountability (reporting and engagement)
– Governance (leadership, function of board)
– Shareholder activism and pressure groups
– Regulation

This list of 10 unfortunately misses out on the need to address global issues such as hunger and disease. One may argue that these standards could be applied to global organisations but the reality is that those multi-nationals that are strong are quite prominent in the West.

Corporaions have an opportunity to view spare capacity, establish secondments and also provide greater opportunities to give to charity. Again, none of these feature in the list.

Take for example, the last world soccer cup. It was revealed that a certain goods manufacturer was exploiting child labour to produce sporting merchandise!

In the past the anti-sweatshop movement succeeded the campaign to divest from Apartheid South Africa. The latter, also premised on Western corporate social responsibility, preoccupied the concerns of many grassroots protest activists of the developed world from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. The movement was global but was targeted at only one country – South Africa. In contrast, the new movement, dating back to the early nineties, is truly globalised. The concern is no longer just on one country but many—those that export labour-intensive goods to the developed world. This includes, in particular, several countries that are located in Asia, the fastest developing region in the world over the past decade.

The anti-sweatshop movement has introduced a new player into the traditional paradigm of industrial relations as a tripartite structure constituting the state, employers and labour. Grassroots non-government organizations (NGOs) such as student groups, religious groups, environmental groups, labour organisations, consumer groups and community groups have become players that can no longer be dismissed as fringe. The movement has taken the moral high ground, and today a large number of transnational corporations (TNCs) have openly accepted that they hold a responsibility to upgrade labour standards in the factories that produce merchandise bearing their names. Many TNCs have now hired a corps of staff to handle labour rights/human rights issues. In the mid-1990s a flurry of internal and external social monitoring, auditing and verification activities to ensure improvement of labour standards gave birth to a flourishing new monitoring and auditing business, but only limited improvements in labour conditions have ensued.

In summary, there is much to do – As individuals we need to be more aware / alert and ensure that as soon as we find out about people being exploited, we avoid their products.

Four years on and the world soccer cup looming, one needs to wonder if any improvements have been made (?) – Maybe the football players need to be more involved with their sponsors in ‘striking out’ human exploitation!

Categories: Ethics and Corporate Responsibility

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