The Practice of Corporate Social Responsibility in Different Countries: A Study of Firms in Canada, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Taiwan and the United States

Article excerpt

There is a long history developing the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the framework for considering the issues including why firms might adopt these practices and how they implement them. This paper provides a unique contribution to the literature by evaluating CSR practices at firms in countries that have not been widely studied. The study also includes health and safety aspects of CSR that have not been widely studied in the literature. The data for this study is comprised of survey data from companies in Canada, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Taiwan, and the United States. The data were collected by The Global Manufacturing Research Group (GMRG), an organization of academic researchers interested in international manufacturing research. Data collected in 2003 and 2004 in the third GMRG survey is used to examine various aspects of CSR. Survey responses from the study were used to analyze the extent of firm investments in environmental initiatives including pollution prevention, recycling, and waste reduction. This research also includes data on workplace health and safety, statistical process control, and total quality management. The goal of the study is to evaluate how CSR activities vary by country and how firm activities compare with competitors.

Introduction

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) includes a broad range of issues, activities, and ideas. CSR has components of both social and environmental concerns. The social aspects of CSR involve business ethics, relationships with stakeholders, workers, and external customers as influenced by the political and cultural framework. Ethical issues encompass a wide array of concerns; corporate governance, communication with the public and stakeholders and human rights. Working conditions, health, and safety are also social aspects of the CSR.

Environmental issues also fall under the umbrella of CSR. Pollution control, recycling, waste treatment, green initiatives, and the efficient use of energy and resources are environmental aspects of CSR. Efforts to conserve energy, reduce emissions or use fewer resources throughout the manufacturing and distribution channel are part of CSR. The concept can also be applied to products that incorporate energy efficiency or a lower environmental impact either during useful life, disposal or both.

It is important to recognize that CSR is a global issue. Firms in countries around the world apply the concepts of CSR to their businesses. CSR is a form of regulation that provides a framework for social and environmental strategies. Self-regulation via adoption of CSR represents rules and controls used to guide various organizational activities. This type of regulation is based on internal ethical frameworks at the firm level. Other aspects of CSR represent voluntary or mandated regulation in response to external factors or authority. Companies respond to external factors via the more formal legal environment or informal pressures of public opinion or customer and stakeholder demand.

The goal of this study is to focus on selected CSR issues as they relate to manufacturing. The global implementation of CSR principals and activities in different countries provides an opportunity to compare and contrast practices across cultures. To the extent the external legal environment and cultural framework affect CSR, it is important to study differences or similarities among countries. This study uses survey data collected in various countries and industries to look at specific aspects of CSR in manufacturing as self-reported by study participants.

Overview

The data for this study were collected by The Global Manufacturing Research Group (GMRG), an organization of academic researchers interested in international manufacturing research. GMRG has administered surveys of manufacturing practices to companies worldwide. This paper uses the results of the third survey, collected in 2003-2004, to examine the extent to which firms invest in pollution prevention, recycling, waste reduction, work place health and safety, statistical process control, and total quality management; how this varies by country; and how their activities compare with their competitors. …