A former colleague undertook some extensive research on CSR in Ireland. As he mentioned in May’s Center for Corporate Citizenship newsletter, one of his biggest bug bears in this area is the notion of just doing enough to get by, the tick box approach to being responsible.
He says, “Interestingly 25 percent state that ensuring the company does not engage in bribery is CSR rather than standard business practice. Given that the sample was drawn predominantly from accountants it is equally interesting that 10 percent of respondents state that accurate management and reporting of company finances is an act of CSR as opposed to standard business practice.”
The social context of CSR practies are critical. It is why Korean companies must consider what being socially responsible means for them as a Korean company and also from the point of view of their stakeholders. The social context is essentially what social responsibility is from their stakeholders’ point of view; this is – its employees, its customers, its partners, law makers, the media etc. When companies wish to engage overseas markets, what social responsibility means takes on whole other set of implications from their global stakeholders.
This case was brought to point last Monday’s International Herald Tribune which examines the increasing role of women in Korean corporate society and the resistance to team building through heavy drinking, sometimes enforced by management. There’s been a landmark case where the Seoul High Court ruled that “forcing a subordinate to drink alcohol was illegal and pronounced the manager guilty of a violation of human dignity.”
My friend Alan would argue that the adoption of a policy that discourages enforced drinking would not be socially responsible. It should just be a standard business practice.
However, I was pleased to see the reference to Posco adopting a related policy as far back as 2005. Standing up and taking leadership in this area is being socially responsible. Similarly, when an issue concerns a company’s stakeholders such as the environment, developing products that benefit the environment not just because of impending regulation but because it is in line with stakeholders wishes (the social context) is being socially responsible. Going beyond minimum requirements is socially responsible.
Social responsibility is not adhering to legal requirements. It’s about standing out from the crowd. The expression of this practice should then, in turn, benefit the business rather than being a burden.