A recent article by Amita Joseph on the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) looked at how increasing globalisation is affecting society and the environment within India.
In it she highlights seven aspects of a business where companies should take action to demonstrate their responsibility and sustainability, and goes on to say:
India can be seen as a test case for the adoption of globalized capitalism … If companies are able to learn from the experience of India’s last two decades, the result will be a better economic model in India and elsewhere. Companies must aspire to be responsible corporate citizens and avoid losing reputation and goodwill.
Not all of these are typical items for CSR. However, as has been long argued, CSR is not a slice of the business but the foundation of responsible and sustainable business practices. It should therefore be welcomed into all aspects of corporate life.
This article will take the NBS aspects one at a time, quote the article and look at them in greater detail with a website example which addresses the demand to demonstrate the aspect and is not intended to detail all the sections a CSR website should have.
Law and custom
Companies must adhere to standards of the country operated in—national laws and cultural and social practices—as well as global standards.
For globalised companies this has often proved to be a bone of contention, especially in countries like India and China where local regulation is a lot weaker than in the US or EU. Smaller companies too need to consider custom as this can be very localised even on the national level.
It’s easy to say “we will comply with local laws and customs” and many businesses have some variation of this phrase on their website.
Demonstrating it is somewhat harder and I’ve yet to come across a corporation which is transparent about its processes and publishes any analysis it may conduct into the laws of a country it operates within.
That said, the compliance section of Hitachi’s CSR website goes further than many to give a feeling of proactive action. This includes a reference to the “Observance of Laws and Regulations and Respect of the Culture and Customs of Each Nation and Region” section of its Code of Conduct, mention of its breach of Japan’s antimonopoly law and remedies the company has made, and a description of its group wide compliance reporting system.
Companies need a full understanding of—and respect for—the local context and people. They must recognize alternative paradigms, especially worldviews that do not measure life only in materialistic terms (e.g. tribal people’s valuing of their sacred environment).
Culture is a different kettle of fish to law and custom. The more unscrupulous businesses flout culture because prevailing regulation supports the business imperative over the cultural one.
Once again, “we will respect the local culture” is often bandied around on corporate websites, often with a rider of “so long as it doesn’t interfere with our own views”. Hard demonstration of how this happens on the ground is much more difficult to come by, especially within the commercial sector.
One interesting comment comes from the mission statement of Bericap, a leading international manufacturer of plastic bottle caps. This says: “as we operate in many different countries, we must respect the culture and mentality of our employees in these countries. Mutual respect between all BERICAP employees of whatever nation and transfer of know-how is the base of our success … BERICAP is decentralised as much as possible and relies on entrepreneurial, professional and loyal General Managers.”
It’s not quite what is mean by culture within CSR terms, but its an interesting angle and is certainly more descriptive than the usual “we will respect…” statements.
Companies need responsive customer service mechanisms and robust corporate responsibility approaches that are articulated, transparent, and operational with strategy, budget, and multistakeholder partnerships.
Scottish Power CSR Review — Customer ServiceNow what does customer services have to do with CSR? Simple: this is a company’s front door to the world. If ever you have a complaint about a company, its services, staff or any other aspect, you usually go to customer services first. You don’t necessarily have to be a customer to do this, it’s just a term used for corporations public face.
Furthermore, customers and the public in general should be regarded as one of any business’ most important stakeholders, with responsible and sustainable action following from that inclusion.
There are many corporate customer services sections which are black holes where you, the consumer or client, have to fight hard to get any kind of response out of the company concerned. Responsiveness should quite rightly be part of the overall makeup of any business’ responsibility strategy.
Several very brave companies out there who make the effort to include their customer services numbers as part of their overall CSR website offering.
One which I’m particularly drawn to is Scottish Power’s inclusion of its customer services record within its online CSR Report. This not only includes the headline figures of number call received, queries resolved etc but publishes how the companies measure up in OFGEM and uSwitch surveys. It didn’t come top in either and there’s no rhetorical grandstanding: just a simple “this is how we’ve been measured, this is what the outcome was”.
The page also talks about other ways in which customers are engaged as stakeholders.
(You can read part 2 of this series here)
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