The government's website defines CSR as 'the business contribution to our sustainable development goals'. Essentially it is about how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates – maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides’. All well and good. But should corporations really be responsible for society? Surely it is all about economics. In our free trading world the individual should be looking out for the rest of society. Ecologically sound principles, rather than price, should drive their buying.
Environmentally friendly cars, energy and foods should be all the rage. But low budget air travel is booming, ‘Chelsea tractors’ are common in cities, and supermarket price wars are vicious continuing battles. Consumers are saying one thing and doing another. Corporations are not stupid – they give them what they want.
Okay, so maybe the government should be responsible. Bless; it does seem to be trying. Back to the website: “Specifically, we see CSR as the voluntary actions that business can take, over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements, to address both its own competitive interests and the interests of wider society.
“The key was to look at CSR as an investment in a strategic asset or distinctive capability, rather than an expense. The debate highlighted the importance of taking a balanced approach to assessing performance – and the risks of concentrating solely on one aspect, such as shareholder value.”
Hang on a minute. Aren’t most commercial organisations designed to provide shareholder or owner profit? Sure the original remit of companies may have included socially responsible policies, like The Body Shop and Wal-Mart, but once they reach a certain size and profitability it becomes harder to keep up the moral arguments.
Yes I did say Wal-Mart. When the first Wal-Mart store was opened its aim was to offer the same goods as other shops but at a cheaper price, so that everyone could benefit. Discounts were passed on to the customer. Its CRM systems and data warehousing techniques are legendary, and have been copied by industries around the world.
But now it is seen, by some, as exploiting staff and squeezing suppliers and competitors out of business. But its low prices are winning out. The government seems to think CSR could provide things that it can no longer afford. If it can’t pay for a local hospice, well maybe a charitable donation from a corporation will make the difference. Everyone feels good, don’t they? But surely it is the role of government rather than corporations to look after people who are vulnerable?
Social responsibility should be important to everyone. Individuals should put their business with the corporations that follow their ethical outlook, rather than going for the cheapest options.
The government should look at improving efficiency and stop spending so much on pointless consultants and marketing daft ideas, or at least spend it on getting systems to work once in a while. And corporations should get on with sustaining the economy through doing business, and making profits so that we all benefit.
Not really sure that the Chinese have got the hang of dealing with copyright infringements. A leading intellectual property (IP) lawyer told MIS UK a recent plea for China to sort out IP theft had a rather unsavoury result. A visiting delegation petitioned the Chinese government to start coming down hard on copyright theft. Certainly, the Chinese government replied. The result was 10 copyright thieves shot at dawn – there, that’ll show them. Not quite what the delegation had hoped for.
Ah, student life. Often remembered more for the drunken pranks and endless holidays, than the pearls of wisdom gained from professors. Nights out with cut price beer, followed by long lie ins and Neighbours. Where did lectures fit in?
But now students don’t have to worry about getting out of their pits after a hard night’s partying. Thanks be for technology. A lecturer at Bradford University has cancelled his traditional lecture timetable and instead will offer his students podcast lectures. First year biochemistry students will be able to watch or listen to virtual lectures in their own time and ask questions via texts.
How fantastic. Too hung over to attend a class, or too busy watching Blue Peter? Never mind, check it out at your leisure on your iPod. Fantastic!