The story is told of John, a young man, standing at the end of a bridge. He was waiting for the bus to take him to his home, nearly an hour’s distance away. It was a warm summer day, and many children were swimming in the millpond below the bridge. As John watched them, he noticed one of the smaller boys began to drift farther and farther from the shore. Suddenly, the little boy threw up his hands and disappeared under the water. John’s first impulse was to run down the bridge and try to help the little boy that was drowning. But as he looked up, his bus was fast approaching. He casually brushed it off and decided with so many good swimmers in the millpond, surely someone else would help him. So he boarded the bus and went home. Upon arriving home, he found his mother lying unconscious on the floor. He hastened to bathe her face and rub her hands. As she regained consciousness, she cried out, “Oh John, your brother Willie has just drowned in the millpond.” Then from John lip’s came the agonizing cry, “If I had only known it was my brother William.”
As we help others, many times we are indirectly helping ourselves and our own families.
All of which leads to the question: how should leaders relate to corporate social responsibility? In today’s changing world, the concept of corporate social responsibility is high on the agenda. The term corporate social responsibility became popular in the 1960s. Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) is an ethical framework which suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large.
“Leadership requires the courage to make decisions that will benefit the next generation.” —Alan Autry
Types of Corporate Social Responsibility
Many leaders are aware of their legal and economic responsibilities (earn a return for their stakeholders within the confines of the law) but may shirk the following because it may not seem as important.Here are 3 categories of social responsibility that leaders should place more emphasis on :
Environment: Sadly exploitation and corruption exist within the domain of
management responsibility. Many leaders have been involved in the degradation of the earth’s resources. Changes have been especially rapid in the last 50 years due to the vast destruction of the forests and the increasing emission of destructive gases resulting in the depletion of the protective ozone layer. Environmental responsibility involves efforts to protect air,water, and land from any harmful effects.
Philanthropy: Philanthropic social responsibility is all about a company caring about the world in which it exists and striving to improve that world for future generations. It involves making an effort to benefit society. Corporate philanthropy ranges in size and scope, and can include everything from donating money to charities, supporting community volunteerism, sponsoring local events, establishing and funding educational programs. Businesses can also aid in the prevention of harmful activities by supporting groups that advocate for ethical behaviours such as animal rights welfare, coalitions against domestic violence or child abuse, etc.
Ethical practices: Leaders want their companies to be profitable, but this should be done only within the confines of sound legal and ethical precepts. Ethical leaders function within both the letter and the “spirit’ of the law. The financial crisis of 2007–08 revealed there is a higher need for ethical leaders and transparency in business processes. Employees locally or internationally should be treated fairly and paid equally. It also includes minimizing the use of child labour as well as refusing to do business with oppressive countries and engaging in fair trade practices.
Three steps to get socially involved:
- Pick a current issue. Declare a clear goal, and mobilize your resources. Make sure is something you easily sustain. Be accountable.
- Make your approach employee-centric. Get employees involved. Be a catalyst but let them champion it..
- Incorporate social responsibility into your business model. CSR should be managed just as any other business activity, and thus it should be integrated into the daily operations.
“No one will thank you for taking care of the present if you have neglected the future.” —Joel A. Barke
Five Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility
1. Brand Differentiation: Branding your business as ‘socially responsible’ differentiates you from your competitors.
2. Retention of staff: Socially responsible companies report increased employee commitment, performance and job
3. Customer loyalty: Customers are attracted to socially responsible companies and prefer to support a business that does good for the community.
4. Reduction in business costs: Environmental initiatives such as recycling and waste management can increase in-house efficiency and in so doing cut costs.
5. Personal and professional growth: It can help employees develop their leadership, project management and people skills.
A company’s “social responsibility” quotient can make a difference to its bottom line. Corporate social responsibility is imperative as most customers consider how businesses deal with their environment. Undertaking socially responsible
initiatives is truly a win-win situation. It can reduce business risk, improve reputation, and drive market opportunities.
Great leaders don’t only focus on the organization and their employees but also the society as a whole. They look at the overall big picture. They are concerned about the future and how their decisions will impact it. Leaders are responsible for fulfilling their civic duty; the actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society. Will you fulfil your duty today? As Mahatma Gandhi so emphatically stated, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
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