Corporate social responsibility refers to “the obligation of decision makers to actions which protect and improve the welfare of a society as a whole along with their own interests” (Lindgreen & Swaen 2010). In today’s business world and socio-political climate, corporate social responsibility has emerged as more than a tactic, but now a legitimate part of organizational strategy. Consumers are looking for a sense of responsibility and compassion for the world and its bevy of issues more now than ever and the onus is on corporations to fulfil that, especially doing so authentically. Businesses have created cause-related marketing initiatives geared toward social issues like worker’s rights, fair and ethical trade, diversity and inclusion, environmental justice, etc. Corporate social responsibility is a matter of not only business ethics, but business culture and is guided by that force. Culture guides human conduct with morals and ethics, but these values are also dependent on the location and world in which the business operates. Business culture and customs varies worldwide and in order to properly fulfil said corporate social responsibility initiatives, it must be authentic to that culture and align with its values. The worst thing that businesses can do in these days is be authentic.
Business practice is just as geographical as it is social. For example, United States business culture appears as “all work and no play.” Interpersonal, familiar relationships with business colleagues are, for the most part, discouraged. It is important to separate business and pleasure, keeping those boundaries in order for situations to be very professional in nature. To blend the two is to blur the lines and when emotions and feelings come to frame business decisions, business gets lost. This is likely due to the individualist culture of Western nations which puts the individual first in favour of climbing the ladder and achieving goals, which is done with the aid of people but in the end, it is about that individual and him or her only. On the contrary, Asian culture’s business practices closely reflect the closeness and hierarchical structure of families. Business structures, even for giant corporations, are framed by a defined “way of doing things” that drawn on sociocultural repertoire. Framed by paternalistic or patrilineal enterprises, organizations are about inter-familial trust and having an identity. Conflicts of interests are addressed in private and personal ways. Control is centralized through a staff and when business is an extension of the family, as is common in Asian cultures, there is less trust of “outsiders” and relationships with non-family employees and partners lack trust, are distant and low in accountability and commitment, even when they are only short-term.
In terms of corporate social responsibility, Asian nations appear to somewhat lag behind Western nations like the United States. Along with Europe and Australia, social issues are typically addressed through governmental and public policy. The issues that are presently taken head on by corporations in the United States such as climate change and women’s rights are not boasted by that of Asian countries, which feel that those are best left to the government (Crane et al. 2013). In a survey of current priorities for corporate social responsibility, companies in 15 countries in Asia, North America and Europe and their written policies were evaluated. Emphasising bribery, ethics, corruption and child labour, the study showed a link between a nation’s economic development and the development of corporate social responsibility in that business. In addition, it found that many CSR policies are based on cultural traditions, as previously asserted, and localized issues.
The authors went into the study with the assumption that there would be less CSR activity in Asia compared to Europe and North America and in the result, found fewer policies in the areas of human rights, association, non-discrimination, equal opportunity employment, vocational education and fair wages, as well as the lack of a statement about defined working hours (Welford). The greatest contrast between Asia and the other continents was in the areas of human rights and vocational education, where there was less of a commitment within the company’s own operations. In the areas of labour standards, ethics, bribery and corruption, the authors found a higher incidence of written policy, indicating that they are present if companies experience it around them and see it as an actual problem. In areas of citizenship and accountability (Welford_, the Asian companies surveyed had a lower incidence of written policy. The authors of this study conjecture that of those Asian companies, there is more conservatism in outwardly addressing social issues partly because Asian cultures value modesty and privacy, especially in not boasting about successes or efforts. This is in great contrast to Western nations, which face lots of attack from outrage and pressure groups and act out of fear of reproach and loss of reputation. However, it is important to not read too much into the results of the study and make assumptions about business behavior in Eastern and Western nations.
East Asian cultures, through research and analysis, are encouraged to include consideration of the traditional, ideas and beliefs, and institutions in business creation and decision making. The growth of Asian consumer expectations for social responsibility in business mirrors the growth of the United States and with increased globalization and other world phenomena, stepping away from those values as much as possible may be worth it in order to remain on equal footing with the rest of the world’s nations.
- Chapple, W. and Moon, J., 2005. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Asia: A seven-country study of CSR web site reporting. Business & society, 44(4), pp.415-441.
- Crane, A., Matten, D. and Spence, L., 2013. Corporate social responsibility in a global context.