Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Responsible Corporation Syndrome

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Responsible Corporation Syndrome

Article excerpt

Dimensions of the corporate social responsibility

The essence of the social responsibility of business organisations can be captured as four elements.

The first is the role of the whole business community, in that its capacity to produce income provides a basis for the conditions for the operation of society, which requires all kinds of financial resources. The income producing capacity of the individual also generally comes into its own in an organisational framework. Taken together, these lead to the fact that the actualisation of the financial state and opportunities of society as a whole, or community prosperity, is to a large extent the consequence of the successfulness of undertakings. This may be called the primary social responsibility of companies. One easily measurable sign of the primary responsibility is the contribution to community expenditure; essentially, the payment of taxes. Tax revenues basically come from two sources: inpayments by organisations (enterprises) and individuals. Taken together, these provide for and cover community expenditures.

Organisations, enterprises, companies and corporations are (micro-)organisms, independent structures within society (as are families). A highly significant proportion of people live their lives within the context of these. Their quality of life is determined to a large extent by which organisations and communities they are linked with and where they carry out their work. For those of working age, organisations providing employment represent the most general, and at the same time the greatest life opportunities. Those who are not linked with some organisation which provides employment (usually a job, even if that is a personal venture) under the general conditions and situation of present society, with the exception of the minority living off their private assets, generally have to rely on provision and support. The fact that the organisations represent the most significant mode of life for those able to work, also means they not only have a sustaining role (provision of employment) but also one which determines the whole of life. This can be regarded as the secondary social responsibility of the companies. The magnitude of the level of employment of the workingage population is also an expression of the measure of participation in the problems of society. After all, people who are able to work but are not employed, not only cannot contribute to the financing of public duties, but they themselves are in need of support.

Besides the financial burdens, the jobless are distracted from public issues by moral problems and those of life in general, and they cannot be relied upon to act in the interest of the building and development of society.

Besides the economy, the operation of society is generally organised by individuals, the political authority system (e.g. government) and the civil sphere working together. The last of these takes care of the fulfilment of duties and the filling of roles which neither individuals nor political institutions--primarily the government--are able to deal with. The reason for this may vary, from lack of money to incompetence, from inattentiveness to political intention. To all events, the civil allocations and activities, i.e. those not organised and/or financed by the government, are highly significant with regard to society as a whole. The activity of business organisations which is not directly of economic character can also be included here.

Undertakings participate in the solution (sometimes the agitation) of many significant social problems which could be dealt with by the state, in fact, to some extent they must be. In this sense, the undertakings also fulfil a supplementary, stop-gap socio-political role with regard to the operation of society as a whole. Developed public policy assigns a large role to corporate social activities in the process of running society as a whole. …

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