Does Corporate Social Responsibility Orientation Vary by Position in the Organizational Hierarchy?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examines whether an individual's position in the organizational hierarchy affects his or her corporate social responsibility orientation (CSRO). It utilizes Archie Carroll's four-dimensional construct of corporate social responsibility to study 499 working individuals enrolled in seminar courses in five universities in the Eastern United States. They comprised 321 non-managers, 61 lower managers, 60 middle managers, 28 top managers. The results show that there are significant differences only between non-managers and mid-level managers along the economic dimension of CSRO. There were no significant differences among the four groups with respect to the legal, ethical and philanthropic dimensions.

Introduction

Recent corporate scandals and subsequent trials have attracted public attention and highlighted once more the importance of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Judges and prosecuting attorneys seek and succeed in imposing steep penalties on those who are found to have betrayed the public trust.

The recent sentences of TYCO'S former CEO, Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, his financial officer have sent Shockwaves to the corporate world (Economist, June 2005).

Corporate social responsibility and business ethics have been the subject of considerable writing and debate for many years among researchers and practitioners. While U.S. corporations are required by law to put the profit motive above all others (Achbar, Abbott and Bakan, 2004), the public in today's world demands that corporations play a more energetic role in the overall welfare of society. Profit maximization is only one of a litany of goals managers are called upon to fulfill. Thus, businesses' economic activities and their social impact have attracted increased public scrutiny and criticism. Interest groups seek and succeed in influencing, to various degrees, major business decisions. Stakeholder theories attempt to describe and explain these pressures upon corporate decision making and their impact upon the business functions (Mellahi, 2003). Management has responded to these additional external pressures by expanding the locus of their goals and developing codes of ethics that are frequently reviewed and reinforced as a means to ensure ethical behavior throughout the organization (Singh, 2006; Pain et al., 2005; Somers, 2001).

Moreover, government is responding to social demands for greater corporate responsibility and accountability by increasing the breadth and depth of legislation. For example, in the corporate world, numerous laws and extensive government regulation affect virtually every aspect of business activities. They touch "almost every business decision ranging from the production of goods and services to their packaging, distribution, marketing and service" (Carroll, 1979). Gonzales-Benito (2006) provides an illustration on how these pressures can affect even logistics practices. The Sarbanes-Oxley act has made business officers personally responsible for the accuracy of financial statements of publicly held companies. In 2005, 8.5 percent of all U.S. companies restated their financial statements (Beal, 2006). The impact of this knowledge on managerial attitudes and behavior has been widely discussed and documented in both the popular and academic literature. Thus, not only are managers held responsible for maximizing profits for the owners and shareholders and for operating within the legal framework, they are also expected to support their employees' quality of work life, to demonstrate their concern for the communities within which their business operate, to minimize the impact of various hazards on the global environment and to engage in purely social or philanthropic endeavors.

Given the recent scandals within corporations and the increasing pressure for managers and organizations to become more socially and ethically responsible, this research paper examines the social responsibility orientations of varying types of organizational members. …