Sample Business Plan on Social Responsibility

Social Responsibility

Introduction

In the recent past, businesses have moved beyond the idea that business organizations exist only to make profits, to acceptance the fact that indeed they (business organizations) have a social responsibility (Friedman, 1970). In what Friedman calls “social conscience”, organizations today therefore feel obligated to the society in the provision of employment, elimination of discrimination, pollution avoidance as well as any other responsibilities they deem fit as giving back to the communities within which they operate. In exploring the subject of social responsibilities, different authors have fronted diverse ideas on social responsibility. The two most outstanding have been Cohen and Drucker whose ideals of social responsibility align with the current trend towards promotion of green environment by organizations in the production of green products, and provision of green services as a show of giving back to the society.

Given that organizations operate within the confines of a society, it is important that they need to feel obligated to the societies within which they operate. According to the International Standards Organization, the obligation that organizations have to the society is what refers to social responsibility. In essence, therefore, social responsibility refers to the ethical and transparent ways in which organizations act, which contribute towards the health and welfare of the society (ISO, 2010).

As a student of Drucker, Cohen’s ideas of social responsibility heavily draw from what Drucker fronted as the responsibilities of organizations towards the communities within which they operate. However, his ideas also differed with those of Drucker at particular instances, regardless of the fact that they drew from what Drucker and Friedman had to say about social responsibility. According to Cohen (2009), given the fact that organizations do not operate within a vacuum, they have to undertake social responsibility as part of the many problems that organizations face that include ecological, economic, social, and ethnic. In his stance, therefore, social responsibility is an obligation that organizations cannot desist from, and it is therefore imperative that organizations wholly undertake social responsibility.

Aligning his thoughts to those of Drucker, Cohen states that given the establishment of an organization within a social environment, and the fact that these organizations have power, it follows through therefore that they have social responsibility (Cohen, 2009). The contention here is that with power, organizations have the ability to influence actions, not only from within the organization (workers and stakeholders), but also from the outside. This therefore translates to the idea of giving back to the community, and effecting changes outside the organization that could be beneficial to the society where the organization operates.

Cohen additionally points to the role of the management and leadership of an organization towards social responsibility. For Cohen, therefore, the leadership of the organization plays an important role in driving social responsibility. In alignment of leadership and social responsibility, Cohen resonates with the ideas of Beebe on effective leadership. According to Beebe (2012), effective leaders are those that lead from an integrity base. This relates to the idea of adherence to moral principles and responsibilities as they relate to the position of leadership and the obligations that the position demands. As a matter of fact, social responsibility falls within the auspices of leadership mandates, which the leadership of an organization should therefore undertake.  The leadership in this case, whether the top executives or the human resource department, should help in the formulation and achievement of environmental social goals, while at the same time finding an equilibrium for the social and environmental goals, with the customary financial performance metrics (Cohen et al., 2012).

Cohen’s ideas of social responsibility align with those of Drucker in the responsibility that an organization has to the community and society of its operation. Drucker enthused that given the organization’s operation within a society, like Cohen, it had the responsibility for the effects it had on its employees, the location, and any other thing that it came into contact with qualifying as social responsibility (Cohen, 2009). The two (Cohen and Drucker) therefore align in advocating for responsibility of the organization to its employees, stakeholders, and the society in general. Particularly, Drucker was concerned of the employees affairs, and initiated the view that employees are not costs, but in fact resources in the organization (Cohen, 2009). It was for this matter, therefore, that the welfare of the employees in and out of the workplace is the corporate leader’s responsibility according to Drucker (Cohen, 2009).

In connection to leadership, integrity, according to Drucker, was the hallmark of any responsible leader (Beebe, 2012).  Like Cohen, Drucker therefore saw the leadership as the driver of social responsibility. Only when a leader has foundations in integrity can they effectively drive social responsibility, given the push of integrity to give back to the community. The essence of Drucker’s push on integrity stemmed from the fact that he believed there was nothing like business ethics (Drucker, 1979). For Drucker, therefore, one was either ethical or unethical, a code of individual behavior, which applied similarly to everyone. Thus, for a leader, acting ethically meant leading social responsibility programs, that were ethical to the employees, stakeholders, and the society as it was the only moral thing to do (Drucker, 1979).

A sharp contrast, however, exists between Cohen and Friedman’s views on social responsibility. Thus, while largely drawing from Drucker, Cohen sees the organization as having power and therefore responsibility, Friedman considered that only individuals could have responsibilities, and given that business are not people, they therefore cannot be held responsible (Friedman, 1970).  He (Friedman) however contended that given the artificial personality given to a corporation, it could therefore have artificial responsibilities, but utterly refuted the sense of business responsibilities.

For Cohen, an individual in a leadership position must act with integrity, while at the same time acting responsibly towards the employees, stakeholders, and the society. Although he opposes the idea of business responsibility, Friedman enthuses that business responsibility lies with corporate executives (Friedman, 1970). Focusing on corporate executives, Friedman argues that the allegiance and responsibility of these executives is to the owners of the business. For Friedman therefore while conducting business on behalf of the business owners, the executives should ensure profit maximization in conformity to the societal rules embodied in the law and ethical customs (Friedman, 1970).  For Friedman, therefore, maximization of profit according to the will of the business owners takes center stage, with social responsibility being subordinate to this objective.

A comparison between Friedman and Cohen’s thoughts on social responsibility and the current business climate promoting a green environment puts the push for a green environment in jeopardy by relating it to Friedman’s view of social responsibility. The current push for a green environment involves employee training and compensation on novel ways of reduction in the use of environmentally harmful substances in company products (Cohen et al., 2012).  For Friedman, such actions are tantamount to spending someone else’s (owner) money, which is not part of the business executive’s responsibility to the owner. By doing this, in the very least, the executive will be abdicating his responsibility to the owners. Friedman therefore opposes such actions as wasteful, and in essence, therefore, his views are detrimental to the idea of a green environment, since he advocates at maximization of profits at any cost (Friedman, 1970).

For Cohen, the power an organization has is equated to similar responsibility to the society. This is in addition to taking responsibility for the effect that the organization’s operations has on its employees, the society, and the environment (Cohen, 2009). Current environmental friendly trends in the corporate world involve organizations assisting employees in the identification of methods of recycling products, designing of human resource management systems with a reflection of equity, well-being, and development in contribution towards long-lasting health and sustainability of employees and the society (Cohen et al., 2012). Cohen’s view on social responsibility, therefore, provides a basis for the promotion of the green environment push in the current corporate world.

Social responsibility refers to the ethical and transparent ways in which organizations act, which contribute towards the health and welfare of the society. In the very least, therefore, corporations should take the welfare of its employees, stakeholders, and the community into consideration while making decisions that affect them. While different scholars have shared their views on social responsibility, Cohen’s views align with the current trend towards a green environment as it reiterates the obligation of a business to its employees, stakeholders, and the community, particularly in making the environment healthy for the operation of business and habitation. Friedman’s view on the other hand is skewed towards the business owners, and therefore detrimental to the employees, stakeholders, the community, and the environment.

References

Beebe, G. D. (2012). Character Formation: Foundation of Effective Leadership. Leadership Excellence, June 20. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy1.ncu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9390ab70-b943-4c66-9dca-0420ec775fb0%40sessionmgr112&vid=1&hid=107

Cohen, E. et al. (2012). HR’s Role in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. SHRM Foundation Executive Briefing. Retrieved from http://www.b-yond.biz/images/pages/file/SHRM_CSR_HR_Exec_Briefing_CohenTaylorMuller.pdf

Cohen, W. A. (2009). What Drucker Taught Us About Social Responsibility. Leader to Leader. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy1.ncu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=aa7e1f4c-3a20-4bff-818f-c6e9c45266c0%40sessionmgr198&vid=1&hid=107

Drucker, P. F. (1979). What is “business ethics?” The Public Interest. Retrieved from http://www.nationalaffairs.com/doclib/20080708_1981632whatisbusinessethicspeterfdrucker.pdf

Friedman, M. (1970). The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. The New York Times Magazine, September 13. Retrieved from http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

ISO. (2010). ISO 26000-Social Responsibility. ISO. Retrieved from http://www.iso.org/iso/home/standards/iso26000.htm