SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - By R. C. Chaturvedi
The essential characteristic of social responsibility is the willingness of an organization to incorporate social and environmental considerations in its decision making and be accountable for its decisions and activities. This implies both transparent and ethical behaviour is in compliance with applicable law consistent with international norms of behaviour and that social responsibility takes into account the interests of stakeholders. Social responsibility should be an integral part of core organizational strategy, with assignedresponsibilities and accountability at all appropriate levels of the organization. It should be reflected in decision making and considered in implementing activities. Philanthropy should not be used by an organization as a substitute for integrating social responsibility into the organization. An organization may need to work with peer organizations, competitors, other parts of the value chain or any other relevant party within the organization's sphere of influence, to address its responsibilities.
A fundamental principle of social responsibility is respect for the rule of law and compliance with legally binding obligations. Social responsibility also entails actions beyond legal compliance and the recognition of obligations to others that are not legally binding. These obligations arise out of widely shared ethical and other values. In doing so, international norms of behaviour and Sustainable Development should be respected.
Relationship between social responsibility and sustainable development:
Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of society while living within the planet's ecological limits and without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable development has three interdependent dimensions – economic, social and environmental.
Social responsibility concerns an organization's responsibilities to society and the environment. Because sustainable development is about the economic, social and environmental goals common to all people, Social responsibility is closely linked to sustainable development. Development should be sustainability for society as a whole and the planet. Sustainable consumption, resource use and livelihoods are relevant to all organizations and relate to the sustainability of society as a whole.
Principles of social responsibility:
An organization should be accountable for its impacts on society, the economy and the environment and an organization should accept appropriate scrutiny and also accept a duty to respond to this scrutiny.
An organization should be transparent in its decisions and activities that impact on society and the environment. The policies, decisions and activities for which it is responsible, their known and likely impacts on society and the environment should be disclosed by an organization in a clear, accurate and complete manner and to a reasonable and sufficient degree.This information should be readily available, directly accessible and understandable.
An organization's behaviour should be based on the values of honesty, equity and integrity, implying a concern for people, animals and the environment and a commitment to address the impact of its activities and decisions on stakeholders' interests.
Respect for stakeholder interests, rule of law, international norms of behaviour and human rights
Rights, claims or specific interests of other individuals or groups should be taken into account. Collectively, these individuals or groups comprise the organization's stakeholders.The rule of law refers to the supremacy of law and no individual, organization or government stands above the law. The organization should accept that respect for the rule of law is mandatory.Where the law or its implementation does not provide for adequate environmental or social safeguards, an organization should respect international norms of behaviour.An organization should respect human rights and recognize their importance and universality
Recognizing social responsibility
In addressing its social responsibility an organization should understand relationships between the organization and society, between the organization and its stakeholders and between the stakeholders and society
Recognizing the core subjects and relevant issues of social responsibility
An organization should be familiar with the issues in the seven core subjects: organizational governance; human rights; labour practices; the environment; fair operating practices; consumer issues; and community involvement and development
Social responsibility and an organization's sphere of influence
An organization may have the ability to affect the behaviour of organizations/parties with which it has relationships. There will be situations where an organization has to take steps to avoid or to mitigate the negative impacts connected to its relationship with such organizations.
Stakeholder identification and engagement
Identification and engagement are central to addressing an organization's social responsibility. Stakeholder engagement assists the organization in addressing its social responsibility by providing an informed basis for its decisions.
Core subjects related to Social responsibility
To define the scope of its social responsibility, identify relevant issues and set its priorities, an organization should take action on the core subjects like organizational governance; human rights; labour practices; the environment; fair operating practices; consumer issues and community involvement and development, based on the principles and practices of social responsibility. An organization should identify and address all those issues that are relevant or significant for its decisions and activities. When assessing the relevance of an issue, short- and long-term objectives should be taken into account.
Organizational governance and social responsibility:
Organizational governance is the most crucial factor in enabling an organization to take responsibility for the impacts of its decisions and activities and to integrate social responsibility throughout the organization and its relationships. This characteristic arises since an organization aiming to be socially responsible should have an organizational governance system enabling the organization to provide oversight and to put into practice the principles of social responsibility
Effective governance should be based on incorporating the principles of social responsibility into decision making and implementation. These principles are accountability, transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder interests, the rule of law, international norms of behaviour and human rights.
Benefits of social responsibility for an organization
Social responsibility can provide numerous like enhancing the reputation of the organization, improving the competitiveness of the organization, improving the organization's relationship with its stakeholders, enhancing employee loyalty, involvement, participation and morale and impacting positively on an organization's ability to recruit, motivate and retain its employees.