Corporations, Social Responsibility, and Public Relations

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

In today’s competitive economy, selling a good product or service is no longer enough to attract today’s socially conscious shoppers. Finding the cheapest price is no longer what always matters to consumers. Instead, consumers expect companies to operate in a socially responsible manner. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now a very important part of the consumer purchasing decisions (Sharma & Mehta, 2012). Indeed, today customers are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality. Nowadays, many organizations are no longer solely focused on turning a profit. A top priority for many organizations is corporate social responsibility (CSR), which focuses on how businesses deal with their environmental, social, and economic impacts.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the commitment by organizations to behave ethically and contribute to economic development, while improving the quality of life of the local community and society in which they operate. Over the last years an increasing number of companies worldwide started promoting their business through CSR strategies because the public expect them to act sustainable as well as responsible (Valentine & Fleischman, 2008). The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders, and all other members of the public sphere. CSR gives public relations a substantial opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationship with public, which is emphasized as the ultimate goal of public relations. Consequently, public relations practitioner’s role in CSR is to make sure that the practices of the organization are well communicated between the organization and its different public. Moreover, public relations practitioners must research a company’s public to learn what particular values are most important to them, thereby maximizing the impact of the CSR.

Toward a Professional Responsibility Theory of Public Relations

Public relations has moved beyond persuasion to negotiation and mediation. The purpose of public relations is not to simply influence publics for the good of the institution, but to help organizations and their publics accommodate each others’ interests to establish a mutual benefit relationship. Public relations is been defined as an ethical communication management between the organization and its publics. Public relations practitioners develop and manage corporate social responsibility principles to fulfill ethically  its functions. However, others argue that persuasion remains at the heart of public relations work and that CSR is antithetical to sound business practice and serves to dilute its focus on wealth creation. However, organizations are considering CSR as essential for successful business operations.  Matthew Rochte is the PR and CSR article said “Companies who do not understand that CSR is about business sustainability and integrity as much as it is about social programs, often make the mistake of making CSR a marketing or PR program/problem.”

Two-way symmetrical model is a public relations theory of ethics that rests on principles of mutuality proposed by Grunig and Grunig. It is important to understand that social responsibility means first that one recognizes, accepts, and acts responsible to one’s society. Based on Garriga and Melé (2004) CSR can be classified in four groups. Firstly, the instrumental theory of CSR as a mere means to the end of profits. Secondly, the political theory in which the social power of corporation is emphasized in the responsibility in the political arena. Thirdly, the integrative theory which consider that business ought to integrate social demands. Lastly, the ethical theory that leads CSR to an ethical perspective where organizations understands that the relationship between business and society needs to have ethical values. Today, public relations professionals agreed with the ethical theories based on the need for enhanced social responsibility, mutual beneficial organization-public relationships, and improved community relations. CSR represents the new millennium challenge and a truly paradigmatic shift for business corporations. Consequently, CSR is being treated in terms of the evolving public relations profession that has moved from a focus of persuasion to a focus on ethics and relationship management.

Companies that has Social Responsibility at Its Core

TOMS is a notable example of a company that has social responsibility at its core. The shoe company donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. This innovative idea resulted from a trip to Argentina where BLake Mycoskie, the founder, saw an overwhelming number of children without shoes. Toms Shoes recognized that consumers want to feel good when buying its products. In just four years, Toms Shoes has donated more than 400,000 shoes in 60 countries, showing as evidence that consumers have clearly embraced Tom Shoes’ cause. As it is stated on Tom Shoes Website “we believe we can improve people’s lives through business.” Like many great companies, TOMS grew out of a vision to make the world a better place, which make it won the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE). Image

DTAC is another notable example of a company that has social responsibility at its core. DTAC  is the second largest mobile phone provider in Thailand and is owned by a Norwegian phone company called Telenor Group. Back in 2010, DTAC released “Disconnect to Connect” advertising campaign. Nowadays, people around the globe are becoming addicted to using the internet and mobile phones to interact, that have been neglecting the ones beside them. Thailand’s DTAC telecommunications company released “Disconnect to Connect” campaign, as part of their CSR projects, telling their customers to put cell phones down for face-to-face time with friends and family. This is an excellent example of CSR, of an organization that wants its publics to buy and use its telecommunications services and cell phones, but at the same time, encourage them to turn off their devices to spend more mindful time offline.

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Social and environmental problems sometimes become great opportunities for public relations practitioners that see CSR the ethical way to increase an organization’s profits. Do you think that a corporation do well financially by being socially responsible? or How does an organization best serve society?

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