There is a high level of interaction and interdependence between the business, the government and the society. As business organizations draw their resources from the society and as their actions have a considerable impact on the environment there is a feeling that they should be more socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility is the ability of the corporation to relate its operations and policies to the social environment in ways that are mutually beneficial to the company and the society. World Business Council for Sustainable Development has defined corporate social responsibility comprehensively as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large." In broad summary it is the ethical behavior of a company towards society.
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Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility
Business organizations adopt different approaches to corporate social responsibility. Some organizations adopt the obstructionist stance and are not involved in any form of social responsibility. They avoid accepting responsibility for their actions or charges of wrongdoing. Other organizations adopt the defensive stance and follow all legal norms as specified by the government and other authorities with respect to the social responsibilities but nothing more. For example if a law stipulates a minimum investment in pollution control equipment then the companies following this approach will make investment in only what is required and may not go in for a slightly higher investment even though it may be much more effective in controlling pollution. However more and more organizations today are being accommodative and proactive. Some adopt the accommodative stance and not only follow all the legal norms but will go beyond in meeting their social responsibilities on a case to case basis when convinced of their merit. Others adopt a proactive stance and voluntarily seek opportunities to contribute to the welfare of society. An organization’s approach towards social responsibility evolves through experience and the changing ideas of the public about corporate roles and responsibilities. Major corporations in the world are adopting different approaches in being socially responsible. Here the corporate social responsibility approaches of two major corporations headquartered in two highly developed economies and operating in two different sectors are discussed
Efforts of Time Warner Inc. at being Socially Responsible
Time Warner Inc. is a leading global media and entertainment company with businesses in filmed entertainment, interactive services, television networks, cable systems and publishing. The major divisions of Time Warner Inc. are AOL, HBO, New Line Cinema, Time Inc., Time Warner Cable, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros. Entertainment. It is headquartered in New York in the United States and all its divisions maintain great reputations for creativity and excellence. Time Warner is committed to being a world-class corporate citizen and is guided by the highest standards of ethics. The company believes in working hard to deliver attractive returns and exceptional value to its shareholders and at the same time strives to make the world a better place. The company aims to minimize its environmental footprint and give back to the communities where it operates. Its ultimate aim is to continuously review its practices to ensure that it remains a leader not only in creative excellence, but also in corporate social responsibility. The efforts of Time Warner Inc in being socially responsible is focused on six key areas namely customers and content, ethics and corporate governance, employees and their place of work, the physical environment, supplier diversity and the general community.
The first focus of Time Warner in its social responsibility initiatives is in the area of customers and content as it believes that its greatest impact on society is as a creator and distributor of news, information and entertainment. It is being socially responsible by entertaining and informing audiences, spotlighting important issues, provoking debate and self-examination and providing relief from stressful daily life. Time Warner strongly supports the free flow of information to all parts of the world. It adheres to a high level of journalistic integrity in reporting, analyzing and delivering the. In its creative businesses of film, television, print and online it highlights on relevant social, political and environmental issues. For example Time Warner works hard to conduct itself in a responsible manner regarding the depiction of smoking in films. The company makes use of the latest technologies to ensure that its content is easily accessible to people with disabilities. Time Warner companies provide parents the information and tools they need to make smart decisions about what their children view and read, online and off and also comply with voluntary rating systems in television, film and video game industries. The company devotes significant resources to protect the privacy of consumers of all its divisions and is committed to being open about how it collects and uses consumer data. The program content is culturally diverse with the company’s networks providing multiethnic and foreign language programming from producers throughout the world.
The second focus of Time Warner in its social responsibility initiatives is ethics and corporate governance. It strives to deal honestly, fairly and respectfully with suppliers, customers, competitors, governmental agencies and communities. The company’s Standards of Business Conduct places great importance on abiding the law, honesty, trust, putting needs of shareholders and customers first, and steering clear of ethical lapses. The company has established a hotline for employees to call anonymously to report any concerns or wrongdoing by any other employee. To ensure compliance the company has designed programs to provide ethics and compliance training to all employees. Time Warner is committed to strong corporate governance practices and its board is composed of exceptionally qualified individuals with distinguished careers in business, finance, academia and public service.
The third focus area in being socially responsible is employees and their place of work. Time Warner has more than 87,000 employees in nearly 60 countries and is committed to be an employer of choice to attract, develop, retain and engage the best people. To achieve this objective the company has developed a unique program called Employees First which is a commitment on the part of Time Warner to help employees succeed at work and provide a workplace where employees feel valued, inspired and confident to achieve their professional goals. The company is committed to offering tools and resources to help employees succeed both at work and in life by offering a number of leadership and professional development programs and workshops at both the enterprise and division level. Another initiative of the company is called Focus on Careers and is designed to make employees aware of and provides new career opportunities across Time Warner. The company strongly believes that careers are only one dimension of life and that people lead interesting, multidimensional lives as global citizens, community members, students, athletes, friends, activists, family members and so on. It provides a workplace that can adapt to peoples’ lifestyles and life stages through a cross-divisional Work/Life Council. The company supports its employees through health and wellness programs, inclusive family supports, child care, flexible work arrangements and other Employee Benefits
Another significant contribution of the company in this regard is the work force diversity. It strongly believes that in an increasingly multicultural world it must reach and understand the diverse people and cultures it serves. It strives to hire and retain staff that is as diverse as its audiences. In its effort in ensuring diversity it has gone beyond race, ethnicity and gender to include unique life experiences, geographic backgrounds, sexual orientation, skills and talents and seeks employees’ opinions in an organized and consistent way to bring about improvements.
The next focus of Time Warner in its social responsibility initiatives is towards the natural environment. Though the company is not an industrial or manufacturing company it is much aware of its environmental footprint and conducts its business in an environmentally sustainable manner. Its efforts are directed towards reducing environmental footprint in ways that make economic sense. The company has initiated programs in all its divisions to conserve natural resources and minimize waste through reduction and recycling, safe and environmentally friendly waste disposable methods and energy conservation and the use of renewable energy.
Time Warner considers the world’s forests as the most vital natural resource because if these forests are not protected, not only will ecological treasures be lost but, future paper supplies will be jeopardized and the price of paper would rise sharply. The company tries to ensure that as much of its paper as possible comes from reforestation efforts and at the same time wildlife is not endangered and there is no erosion problems to damage the ecosystem. To ensure this the company insists on its paper suppliers to participate in a program called Certified Sustainable Forestry. It has also joined with other major paper buyers to form the Paper Working Group, a coalition aimed at encouraging an increase in the supply of “environmentally preferable paper with lighter grades that hold up well on the presses and preserve the satisfying texture of the magazines. As lighter paper requires less wood to make it, reduces production, transportation and postage costs, as well as lower energy use during production and distribution, saving the company millions of dollars a year. Its subsidiaries like Warner Bros. Studios have increased overall recycling rate and recycled and reprocessed waste into new products. Warner Bros. Studios also donates computers, office supplies, furniture, paint, wood and other items to schools and nonprofit organizations reducing waste disposal costs and benefiting the community.
Time Warner being a media company contributes greatly to environmental protection through effective media coverage and features the relevant issues in its magazines. For example Time magazine has run many cover stories and special reports devoted to environmental issues. Fortune has featured efforts by corporations to make themselves greener and boost profits at the same time. Popular Science has covered global warming and energy issues in its publication. In HBO’s comedy festival “Earth to America” comedians made an effort to educate all the stake holders by looking at the environmental issue of global warming in a lighter side.
Another focus of Time Warner is in the area of supplier diversity. The company purchases huge number of products and services from hundreds of suppliers around the world. It also licenses its brands and characters to licensees who then use them to manufacture and sell toys, electronics, posters, costumes and other products. These licensees work with thousands of manufacturers around the world to produce these and other products. The company aims to achieve its objective of having supplier diversity by engaging women and other minorities in supply and support the supplier diversity initiative through training, education, internal and external communications, business development, internal networking activities, reporting and a process through which the good work of such suppliers is recognized.
The sixth important focus area for Time Warner in being socially responsible is the general community. The company has always been involved in providing philanthropic support for many worthwhile causes and organizations involved in the betterment of the communities in which it operates. Time Warner’s corporate office funds a number of non-profit organizations supporting education and arts with an objective to nurture and develop creativity and diversity. In arts it funds initiatives to broaden public access to arts, engage underserved youth with arts programs and encourage unrepresented artists. In education its efforts are directed towards ensuring that young people from all walks of life are equipped with knowledge and skills to succeed in their life. Time Warner’s divisions also manage their own philanthropic programs and take the company’s education and arts focus even deeper into the community.
As the company operates in more than 60 countries it has also responded to the global social needs. Time Warner has responded with tremendous generosity to the natural disasters that have occurred around the world. Being a media company it has brought the stories of people affected by natural disasters that have occurred anywhere in the globe on their channels and magazines. The company also donated cable time, Internet access, advertising space, and other services to those in needs and also encouraged others to give money and other aid in response to relief efforts. Some of the recent disasters to which the company and its divisions and employees have donated are Indian Ocean Tsunami, Gulf Coast Hurricanes, Pakistan earthquake and London Bombings.
Efforts of Hitachi Maxell Ltd. at being Socially Responsible
Hitachi Maxell Ltd. is a leading Japanese electronics manufacturer headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and has its operations in the US, Europe and Asia. The group’s technologies, products and services are focused on enhancing the comfort of people’s lives and serving industry and society. It manufactures information storage media like computer tapes, CDs, DVDs etc., batteries and data devices and other electronic appliances for various applications. The globally renowned group conducts its corporate social responsibility activities with every employee striving to gain the empathy and trust of its stakeholders. The social responsibility activities of the company are focused on six key areas namely improvement in customer satisfaction, quality control, ethics abidance, consideration for the environment, health and safety and the enhancement of workplace environments.
The company makes its social contributions by offering innovative and high tech products that enhance the quality of life of people. Its products support home safety, traffic safety, better equipment performance and clean energy development. The products it manufactures also support safety of automobiles, help improve the quality of life of patients and provide for comfortable and healthy life styles. The major focus of Hitachi Maxell in being socially responsible is its support for customer satisfaction through continuous quality improvement. The company seeks and incorporates the opinion of customers to enhance satisfaction. It has developed internal systems to encourage every employee to improve quality. For example it has promoted Product Safety Voluntary Action plan to encourage employees to tackle product safety themselves. The company operates the Maxell Top Quality campaign to ensure that the customers receive top quality products and services. If at all there is even a hint that a company product malfunction may threaten lives, the information is immediately passed on to the customers to avoid risk at any cost.
To ensure ethical decision making in all its divisions it has established an internal control committee, a compliance helpline, a set up for timely disclosure of information and personal information protection committee. It has established a code of corporate ethics to raise the corporate values in the execution of all its business activities. It also educates and trains every employee to ensure voluntary compliance. Hitachi Maxell buys a large number of products and services from hundreds of suppliers and treats suppliers as partners and no employee is to accept any benefits from them. The company believes in socially responsible investments and provides through and timely disclosure of information to shareholders and investors through direct communication.
An important focus area of being socially responsible is in creating a comfortable workplace for every employee. The HR activities of the company are conducted with high consideration for human rights and individuality. It strives to provide a pleasant and motivating work environment to support optimum employee performance. There is a special provision for punishing any sexual harassment occurrences. There is no discrimination in employee treatment and facilities have been developed to support the performance of employees with special needs. There is leave provided to employees for child raising and the company also provides a platform for employee to improve their education levels. It promotes activities to take care of employee health and safety and strives for good labor management relations.
Hitachi Maxell accords top priority to being socially responsible towards the environment and minimize its environment foot prints. The company has established the environment protection action guidelines to direct all its activities. The company uses raw materials, energy and water to manufacture products to enhance the customer’s quality of life and in the process impacts the global environment by emitting CO2, effluent water and chemical wastages. The company strives very hard to reduce the environmental impact through the entire chain from manufacture to product use and disposal. It aggressively promotes the purchase of goods from green suppliers. It is designing eco-friendly products that have minimal impact on the environment and is setting up eco-friendly factories to reduce the impact of manufacture on the environment. It has set a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 10% by 2010. It is striving hard to increase the efficiencies of non-renewable energy sources, reduce the impact of transportation through green eco logistics, reduce the wastage generated and promote recycling and reuse wherever possible on a continuous basis. The company has also set up voluntary standards for critical pollution issues like air pollution, water contamination, soil pollution, noise and vibrations. It provides environmental education to employees and their families and carries out environmental accounting to ensure compliance.
The company is involved in a number of activities for the betterment of the communities it operates in. It supports education and culture through conducting contests for students, online library for kids, theater for encouraging children participation and establishing a large planetarium. It supports career development of students by providing internships and holds workshops to promote sports for students. It guides local people in the areas of environment protection and beautification of their surroundings. In its global initiatives it has promoted John Lennon Educational Tour bus that is dedicated to provide students to make music and produce videos free of cost in the US. In China it has donated clothes to school children and conducted blood donation activities. It has also supported the restoration of revered Buddhist statues in Cambodia and supported a youth soccer team in Singapore.
Comparison of Social Responsibility Approaches
Both Time Warner and Hitachi Maxell though operating in different countries and in radically different sectors have elaborate strategies towards being socially responsible and trying to minimize their environmental footprints. The two companies are convinced that being socially responsible makes sound business sense and so have used CSR strategically. They place great importance on being ethical and have established clearly defined codes, methods for training and compliance mechanisms to ensure that every employee is ethical in his decisions. The two companies use their product and services strategically to be socially responsible. Hitachi develops, manufactures and provides products to better the lives of consumers and Time contributes in a socially responsible way through quality content in its services.
The companies have a similar approach in improving the work life of their employees by providing great work environment and a policy of nondiscrimination. They provide a great scope for career development of employees and provide facilities for employees with special needs. However Time places comparatively great emphasis on bringing about cultural, ethical, racial and gender diversity in its workforce and Hitachi Maxell has a unique program for providing employment to the elderly. The companies also follow a policy of non discrimination and a partnership approach towards suppliers; however Time has gone a step further and encourages and trains suppliers from women and other minorities and gives preference to them as their preferred suppliers.
The companies firmly believe in supporting the communities both domestic and global in which they operate. They have initiated a number of activities to especially support education and arts for the under privileged. Hitachi Maxell provides education and guidance to support the local communities in improving their surroundings. However Time Warner has contributed greatly to natural disasters that have occurred anywhere in the world and also brought the sufferings of people in these disasters to viewers all over the globe through their services. Both the companies have been seriously involved in reducing their environmental footprints. Hitachi Maxell is comparatively more involved because of the impact of its products and processes on the environment. It has embedded its social responsiveness initiatives in the products as well as the processes to reduce the impact. Time Warner has focused on conserving forests and publishing the importance of reducing global warming as a contribution in this area.
Business organizations have accepted the growing importance of corporate social responsibility and the need to reduce their environmental footprints because of the increased awareness and the expectations of all the stakeholders. Major corporations in the world like Hitachi Maxell and Time Warner irrespective of the country and sector they operate in have realized that sound corporate social responsibility initiatives can lead to competitive advantage. They have formulated comprehensive social responsibility strategies and established mechanisms to facilitate proper implementation of such strategies to gain the desired advantages.
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