Over recent years, companies have hastened their positioning vis-à-vis society, investing huge amounts on such concepts as recycling, the environment, solidarity projects, dynamics of work-life balance, and so on.
The companies of Society, or the Society of companies?
The concept of “social do-goodism” is a two-edged sword. Enterprise as such does not have, with some exceptions, an altruistic aim and all changes made in the sense and interpretation of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) have to deliver a quantitative return within the company’s business figures.
However, it is true to say that, as individuals and given the current levels of market growth, we demand a series of values or conducts that position us vis-à-vis the companies that sell us their products. This allows for growth in business terms, within certain parameters based on ethics, responsible growth and respect for values.
Society cannot exist without companies, and companies cannot function without a consumer society. And this, in such a globalised setting, means that firms that function by offering manufactured products, with the least possible environmental impact, collaborating in solidarity campaigns, and in an optimal work environment with happy employees, etc., are valued more highly by the end consumer. The different stakeholders, both internal and external (employees, customers, suppliers, etc.) are in constant contact.
Indeed, CSR strategy is already present in university projects, gaining ground since the 80s, and has now become a subject in graduate and post-graduate projects. What is more, the debate on improving the management of organizations is being regulated through various rules and regulations by state and private institutions, at both national and international levels, such as the great place to work certificate.
For all of the above, this reflection could fall on the side of the bad fairy claiming that, if there is no ultimate gain, then CSR would have no place or meaning. And, in contrast, the good fairy will say that this process of social awareness is unstoppable and arises from corporate behavior itself, realizing that ruthless, uncontrolled capitalism must be somehow kept in check. This reflection is no more than a free interpretation of the Goodpaster and Matthews dilemma. Furthermore, multinationals are so powerful that it can be dangerous if they encroach on social solidarity ground and, should they do so, it would only be in search of guaranteed profit.
As we can throw into question the words of Rousseau, and consider whether or not man is indeed good by nature, let us at least keep hold of the ultimate goal of this organizational and social optimization process, providing it really does improve on the old situation, at all levels and for all stakeholders, both internal and external.
Francisco José Cano Galán