Nowadays, corporate responsibility is turning out to be one of the most prominent issues in the international arena. It has also become a research priority in the field of public relations, considering its importance in the said industry for decades. It is because of this that several studies have been made that looked into the importance of the internet and corporate websites as tools of public relations. In the same manner, these studies investigated the relevance of corporate websites for communicating approaches to corporate responsibility.
This paper aims to look into the role of the internet, specifically corporate websites in developing long-term relationships between the organization and the public and how this affects the former’s corporate social responsibility. In the same manner, this study would look into the importance of corporate social responsibility, being a legitimating activity for the organization in the society to their businesses. The companies that shall be used for the study will be limited to those that are in the United States of America.
These are the following: Abercrombie & Filch, American Airlines, American Express, Carl’s Jr, The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive, The Walt Disney Company, Estee Lauder Companies, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s Corporation, Motorola, Nike, Northwest Airlines, Paramount Pictures, Pizza Hut, Procter & Gamble and Starbucks.
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For each and every company on the face of the planet, corporate responsibility is becoming more and more important as it is considered as the legitimating activity for the organization in the society, as (Degan 2002: 92), (Holmstrom 2003) and (Hooghiemstra 2000: 56) mentions. The principle of legitimacy becomes effective on the institutional level, which suggests that the organization justify itself vis-a-vis society; that is, it must not use its power without justified cause.
On the organizational level, the principle of public responsibility implies that organizations are responsible for the outcomes of their actions which impact society directly or indirectly. Admittedly, on the individual level, it is critical that managers are continuously aware that they ought to act based on moral viewpoints. Moreover, other studies, suggest that corporate responsibility is also an activity more and more valued and demanded by the public (consumers, investors, employees, communities, journalists, etc. ) which monitor the civic behavior of the different companies and assess them accordingly (Capriotti 2006). In the field of public relations, corporate responsibility is undoubtedly one of the most popular themes. In fact, there is a narrow relationship that exists between public relations and corporate responsibility, as suggested by (Clark 2000).
According to (Holmstrom 2003) and (Moreno 2004), this is because public relations itself is considered to be a legitimating practice for the different organizations, as perceived by both the functionalist and poststructuralist perspectives. True enough, according to (Capriotti 1999), companies have progressively assumed responsibilities that transcend beyond their own activities within the social sphere. Their perception of what corporate responsibility is has evolved during the past fifty (50) years. (Waddock 2004: 10) mentions that the concept of corporate citizenship has become more and more relevant as the stakeholder theory has been used to explain corporate social responsibility.
For Waddock , corporate citizenship usually involves strategies and operations practices a company develops that are essential in operationalizing its relationships with the stakeholders and the natural environment. This is also essential in analyzing how these relationships affect the latter. It is because of this that corporate responsibility has been closely associated with sustainable development (Herrmann 2004).
Hence, the perceptions of corporate social responsibility/corporate citizenship/and sustainable development are based on the commitments of a certain organization and their relationship with the general public to be able to fulfill their economic, social and environmental duties. It is in the fulfillment of these duties and commitments that these companies, in their management; the development of their products, services, and businesses; and in the evaluation, are devoted to transparency and ethical behavior (Capriotti 2006).
Moreover, in the age where information technology has undergone a lot of advancements, the internet has surely become one of the most vital tools for organizational communication, as (Sullivan 1999) clearly mentions. Studies made, such as that of (Hill and White 2000) and (Kenty and Taylor 1998) show the importance of the World Wide Web, especially corporate websites as tools for public relations. In addition, it has also become an avenue through which communicating organizational responsibilities are transmitted through their patrons (Esrock & Leichty 1998).
In connection with these, researches made on public relations and the internet show the relevance of the issue on interactivity between the organization and the public. Interactivity is one of the main characteristics and has been one of the main interests in researches made that concerns the field of communications (Ha & James 1998). The previous studies which have been conducted presented the two basic approaches in determining the degree of interactivity that certain organizational websites have. The first of which is the dissemination of information as suggested by (Esrock & Leichty 1998).
For this first approach, the degree of interactivity is low, the use of the internet is unidirectional and its objective is to diffuse information that could influence the public’s image of the company. A wide base of studies have lent evidence to the fact that good corporate citizenry does equate – directly or indirectly – to commercial success. Entities such as the Business for Social Responsibility and The Business Enterprise Trust in the United States of the Centre for Tomorrow’s 6 Company and Business in the Community in Britain have synthesized empirical data along this area.
For instance, the Centre for Tomorrow’s Company – whose own special conceptualization of corporate social responsibility initiatives it tagged the ‘inclusive approach’ has the following to say: At the very least, the research supports the view that the inclusive approach, while serving shareholders’ interests, particularly in the long-term, does lead to business success as a result of improved customer satisfaction, greater commitment on the part of the employees, a more effective supply chain, and an enhanced reputation in the community at large (Centre for Tomorrow’s Success, 1998).
On the other hand, in the United States, the Business for Social Responsibility asserts the following: Over the past decade, a growing number of companies have recognized that the business benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and practices. Their experiences are bolstered by a growing body of empirical studies which demonstrate that CSR has a positive impact on business economic performance, and is not harmful to shareholder value (www. bsr. org). A Committee of Inquiry that presented to the British Government, yielded similar conclusions: The evidence stacks up to the point where any reasonable person must begin to ask what more might be required to demonstrate a binding cause and effect relationship between increased competitiveness and environmentally and socially responsible behavior.
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