Issues in Public Relations – Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted on February 11, 2010

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Corporate Social Responsibility – A corporate conscience or simply window dressing?

In class this week, we were asked as to whether or not we agreed with the following statement, “Attempts to align companies or brands with good causes are mere window dressing – companies should stick to the business of making money.”

Milton Friedman, once said, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” There are those who have a similar view to Friedman, believing that as long as an organization runs its business in an ethical manner, it should then concentrate solely on enhancing shareholder value. They feel that corporate social responsibility is a distraction and a waste of shareholder’s money.

Yes, quite often a pretence is made by firms at having a social responsibility, but this is only ‘window dressing’. Looking at it from a PR perspective, I think that when an organization gets involved in something related to the industry which they are in, then it can be very worthwhile. I do not agree with companies playing at having a corporate social responsibility as a cover-up device, Nike and Shell being obvious examples. I do feel however, that acting in a socially responsible way for the right reasons will differentiate the organisation, help its corporate image and reputation, and in turn create a competitive advantage over rival firms. Public Relations as described by Trevor Morris is, “the planned persuasion of people to behave in ways that further its sponsors objectives.” Consumers look on firms which are serious about CSR positively, therefore companies should not just stick to making money.

In Western style economies, there is an increasing realization that companies have and must be aware of their social responsibilities, and must be seen to embrace it in a proactive way, rather than being forced into taking measures which are the minimum they can get away with. Obviously organizations have to make profits in order to succeed and grow, but it could prove to be detrimental to their long-term success if they ignore their obligations in this area. Shareholders nowadays expect more from their companies then a good dividend policy.

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