Social responsibility: A firm’s obligation, beyond that required by the law and economics to pursue long term goals that are beneficial to society.
What do we mean when we talk about social, responsibility? It’s a business firm’s obligation, beyond that required by the law and economies, to pursue long term goals that are good for society. Note that this definition assumes that business obeys the law and pursues economic interests. We take as a given that all business firms those that are socially responsible and those that are not will obey all laws that society imposes. Also note that this definition views business as a moral agent. In its effort to do good for society, it must differentiate between right and wrong.
Social obligation: The obligation of a business to meet its economic and legal responsibilities and no more
We can understand social responsibility better if we compare it with two similar concepts: social obligation and social responsiveness. Social obligation is the foundation of a business’ social involvement. A business has fulfilled its social obligation when it meets its economic and legal responsibilities and no more. It does the minimum that the law requires. A firm pursues social goals only to the extent that they contribute to its economic goals. In contrast obligation, both social responsibility and social responsiveness go beyond merely meeting basic economic and legal standards. For example, both might mean respecting the community in which the company operates, treating all employees fairly, respecting the environment supporting career goals and special works needs of women and minorities, or not doing business in countries where human rights violations occur.
Social responsiveness: The ability of a firm to adapt to changing societal conditions.
Social responsibility also adds an ethical imperative to do those things that make society better and not to do those that could make it worse. Social responsiveness refers to the capacity of a firm to adapt to changing societal conditions. Social responsibility requires business to determine what is right or wrong and, thus, seek fundamental ethical truths. Social responsiveness is guided by social norms that can provide managers with a meaningful guide for decision making.
For example, many multinationals and large Indian companies are now making a move towards including differently abled people on their payrolls. Companies such as HSBC, Sony TV, Essar, Hiranandani Group, Bharti, Prudential and Zenta even attempt to design their infrastructure and facilities to be as user friendly as possible for differently abled employees, and are making a committed move towards integrating them with the mainstream workforce.
However, as responsible citizens, and future industry leaders, we need to examine whether this is a case of too little, too late. India has an estimated 6 percent of its population as possessing some disability. This figure is a highly conservative estimate, given the narrow definition of “disability” as well as the obvious problems of relying on the census figures in a country like India. Moreover, even going by conservative estimates, this means a population of 6 crores in India finds it a challenge to get through mainstream education, to travel, and to find employment. Corporate India needs to examine whether it is doing enough for this very significant part of our population.
Regardless of one’s own view, whether a manager acts ethically or unethically will depend on several factors. These factors include the individual’s morality, values, personality, and experience; the organization’s culture; and the issue in question. A recent survey, for example, indicated that 82 percent of corporate executives surveyed admitted that they cheat at golf – and 72 percent of them believe that golf and business behaviors are parallel.