Business team holding a young plant on palm together. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Generally speaking, the responsibility of any business is towards the society and, in spite of this priority, it has been found that many business have failed to wield their economic power for public purpose. Unethical business practices are far too common in the business circles. Various punitive measures, codes of ethics, codes of conduct and codes of practice have been applied to control the menace, but still the continuing gap between social expectation for the organisational conduct and the actual social conduct of large organisations is increasing. Because of the failure of conventional corporate social responsibility (CSR), a number of problems have arisen such as environmental destruction.

Corporate social responsibility involves the conduct of a business so that it is economically profitable, law abiding, ethical and socially supportive. To be socially responsible means that profitability and obedience to the law are foremost conditions when discussing the firm’s ethics and the extent to which it supports the society in which it exists with contributions of money, time and talent. Not even the commitment to CSR stops large corporations in the industrialised world from violating price competition laws, which in return affects their customers. It is the mistake of corporate leaders to ignore these issues. If these issues continue to increase then at some point the downfall of business will start, which in future will be tough to control.

These social issues should be dealt with in an effective manner rather than by meeting the metrics of a scholarly definition of CSR. It would be a miserable society of free riders where everyone is busy to find out their own way to win their own races without being concerned with how many people they are affecting on their way. Yet, this is exactly what has happened in the larger economic arena.

Corporate orientation must be validated in terms of tangible contributions to the society as a whole. For this purpose, it requires plenty of benign organisational practices and acts toward the well-being of the customers, employees and the environment. In fact, I think after accomplishing societal duties, we achieve the genuine view of effective workplaces at the organisational level. In effect, companies have the opportunity to do good by employing their capabilities and knowledge in order to serve the humankind instead of being served by the human beings.

The difficult task is that there are not many authentic models specifically to measure the effectiveness of the organisations. We expect this process of implementing CSR takes time, but I believe that if individual agents are given a voice, they will aspire to do something more than material wealth and are capable of more than caring for their selves. No doubt leaders have a role to play, but the task falls on each one of us and we should not run from these responsibilities.

— The reader is a human resource development lecturer based in Manama, Bahrain.