What is social responsibility? It seems that oftentimes there are words thrown up, buzz words, lending attention to schemes or behaviours that are seen as just in the general public, shining favourable light on organisations, particularly businesses. Corporate social responsibility, as defined by Oxford Reference, is “Awareness, acceptance, and management of the implications and effects of all corporate decision‐making, taking particular account of community investment, human rights, and employee relations, environmental practices, and ethical conduct”. But as with many buzz words it feels as though the word is used to white wash, green wash, favourably wash the organisation using it, bending it at its whim invoking a subconscious led understanding and interpretation from the reader, that burst of oxytocin or dopamine triggered by an unbeknownst thought. It seems in fact that the definition above is a tool box of which the organisation picks the most applicable tool, but not realising that in fact to do the job the properly they need the whole box.
It could be argued that recent or continued events such as climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic are upending how society approaches consumerism and capitalism alike in that social responsibility is taking on a new meaning entirely. Yes it is an “Awareness, acceptance, and management of the implications and effects of all corporate decision making…” but also an acceptance of part, an ownership of repercussion or consequence, an acknowledgement of the past and a promise for future reparations. It is also more than what is in many cases a metaphorical pledge of “…community investment, human rights, and employee relations…” with many organisations continuing their rampant profit led destructiveness in one place, whilst “investing” in the local community of their home place; continuing malpractice in workplaces globally in the want of profit; allowing the pay gap amongst their own employees to continue its canyon-like growth. And to top it off, an apparent promise of environmental protections and ethical conduct being loosely adhered to, to meet the target of outdated regulation to satisfy the law, doing very little in the way of attempting to revolutionise and lead by example, advocating instead for the change in regulation themselves.
Social responsibility is Acknowledgement, ownership of and action in response to the implications and effects of all organisational decision making, investment in global and local community, respecting human rights, and the betterment of economic well-being and relations of all employees, innovation in environmental and socially responsible practices, measuring all action against a high standard of ethical conduct.