Milton Freidman, a Nobel Prize winner, once said: “The business of business is business.” Actually, for most companies, the last several decades have been strictly about making a profit. When buying products, customers do not really pay attention to whether employees receive equitable remuneration, or how the production process affects the environment, or whether profits from sales go solely to the company or also to the local community. Nevertheless, for some time we have observed a tendency towards noticing other opportunities of running a business. Social awareness triggers the demand to meet different needs that society considers significant, such as protection of the environment, fighting against discrimination and social exclusion, or creating employee-friendly workplaces where they can feel fulfilled.
Article by Sergiuz Prokurat
A voluntary strategy, taking into account social, economic, ethical and ecological aspects of business activity, and the relationship with the surrounding environment, has been defined as Corporate Social Responsibility, which stands for responsibility towards society, understood as the personal contribution of a business owner towards improving the condition of that society. It is a concept according to which companies voluntarily include social and environmental aspects into their commercial activities and in their relations with interested parties, i.e. stakeholders. In practice, it is incorporated into such activities as: social campaigns, corporate volunteering, sponsorship of cultural events, product sales combined with donating part of the revenue to a particular social objective, development of ethical codes of conduct, or ecolabelling of products. Recently, CSR has even been recognized as an area of study. “It is a structured philosophy of operation, accompanied by clear dimensions and a written range of tools intended for the implementation of objectives. For example, Wayne Visser, who has been doing research on CSR for 20 years, has identified five stages of CSR comprehension: creativity and innovation, scalability and focus on global challenges, reply and response, matching the approach and understanding of local challenges with the global perspective, and a closed cycle, i.e. running a business which at the same time meets market needs and creates them, so that they are contained in a kind of a closed cycle. In the case of some companies, we can talk about a well considered and deliberate CSR strategy, in which all objectives are assigned with indicators that monitor progress. “Analyzing the guidelines of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which stand for an international module of reporting responsible business and sustainable development, allows CSR to be treated as a scientific process,” said Katarzyna Bachnik, Assistant Professor at the Warsaw School of Economics.
This point of view does not convince everyone. On hearing “CSR,” many people smile cynically and think that it is pure PR, another marketing trick to attract customers. Bachnik argues, however, that there is an essential difference: “A company should not talk about activities performed in the field of CSR. CSR is not PR. CSR functions within the framework of strategic operations – provided that it is not “an addition” aimed at raising the morale of employees and strengthening the company’s image – and is associated with the implementation of specific goals.” In contrast to charity or marketing actions, CSR operations are not of an incidental character but are carried out in the long term. “Although CSR has been created somewhat in opposition to Friedman’s statement, economics is still one of its pillars, so CSR must be profitable. And it will be if the social responsibility strategy is naturally interrelated with the main area of a company’s operations, which facilitates the analysis of existing practices and procedures from a different viewpoint and seeking improvement and modifications. As a result, CSR can be a driving force for innovation,” added Bachnik. In order to understand CSR, it is extremely important to realize that its operations should result from a high sense of social responsibility of an entrepreneur and a strong willingness to resolve social problems, which in Poland include: unemployment, poverty, unequal opportunities on the labor market, or limited access to education in rural areas and an insufficient level of environmental protection. In practice the CSR strategy pursues the demand for striving towards sustainable development, where the economy, ecology and social matters are equally important. The research study entitled “CSR Managers in Central Europe” by Delloite and PBS postulates that the main driver for taking initiatives within the scope of social responsibility and business ethics by companies and business organizations is the willingness to improve the company’s and an entrepreneur’s image. Owners of small and medium-sized businesses in Poland, which play the most significant role in the economy, are associated by many citizens with such concepts as: capitalism, private property, profit, and wealth. These connotations are not positive. Therefore, Poles associate CSR directly with PR.
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