In the age when corporate power reaches threatening proportions, it is extremely important to ensure that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is at the core of each business entity. Corporations should be regarded not only as a means for enrichment but as social responsibility enterprises (Lange & Washburn, 2012). Unfortunately, not all organizations are driven by ethical standards (Lange & Washburn, 2012). The irresponsible behavior of some corporations shows that the morality gaps of their leaders fundamentally endanger many societies.
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This paper aims to explore the impact of corporations on the world. It will be argued that corporations can function as both good and bad corporate citizens; therefore, their actions have to be controlled by the public.
It has been long established that questionable decisions are taken by corporate executives often lead to considerable social damages. A case in point is the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. According to Pendse (2012), the crisis resulted from the combination of profit motives and opportunities that distorted business incentives. The financial disaster endangered the livelihoods of millions of people around the world and disrupted many communities. A study conducted by Erkens, Hung, and Matos (2012) reveal that corporate institutions were extremely careless with regard to financial operations prior to the crisis. It means that financial institutions tried to transfer risks to their customers while benefiting from monetary returns. This instance of corporate irresponsibility shows that many corporations often opt for immoral but profitable business practices.
Numerous corporations have been involved in labor law violations. The employment law has been created to ensure that workers are treated fairly and equitably. Unfortunately, many corporations are flourishing at the expense of their workforce. For example, Apple and its major contractor Foxconn have been disregarding the international labor standards for many years. Josephs (2013) claims that the pursuit of enormous profits by Apple resulted in compulsory overtime, hazardous working conditions, and extremely small salaries at Foxconn’s factories. There is ample evidence suggesting that numerous corporations across China and other countries engage in similar business practices (Josephs, 2013). Therefore, it can be argued that many corporate entities contribute to the spread of misery in the world.
Unethical executive behavior, which makes one question whether corporations are upstanding corporate citizens, is not restricted to individual firms. A book written by a Nobel laureate who teaches at Columbia University—Joseph E. Stiglitz—can help to explain this point. The economist argues that big businesses promote social inequalities (Stiglitz, 2015). This negative effect of corporate functioning disrupts the global social order. Elites exploiting poor individuals with the help of corporate power is the externality of capitalism that occurs too often it is the twenty-first century.
The political power exerted by big businesses is another area of corporate performance that damages the global society. Political campaigns of government representatives are often funded by for-profit organizations. Candidates whose campaigns have been financed by corporate sponsors are indebted to them. It follows that many politicians are working against the public interest, thereby benefiting their business patrons. Furthermore, big businesses are known for influencing policies through lobbying (Korten, 2015) This provides them with an unfair advantage over the general population. By using this advantage, corporations are increasing social inequality and hurting the public interest in the process. Regulatory agencies are also prone to financial incentives provided by some companies (Korten, 2015).
Despite numerous negative influences of big businesses in the world, many companies can be regarded as good corporate citizens. Companies structured around the idea of CSR provide their employees with equitable salaries. Moreover, such business entities tend to avoid excessive pricing premiums, which benefits their customers (Hodgson, 2013). By using their corporate power to provide people with affordable goods, corporations raise the standard of living across the world. It is especially important in poverty-stricken countries. Furthermore, CSR-driven companies try to reduce their carbon footprint. Taking into consideration, the threat of global warming, the social orientation of such companies is extremely valuable (Hodgson, 2013).
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Socially-responsible business practices are always rewarded by the market in the long run. A study conducted by Barnett and Salomon (2012) shows that the financial performance of CSR-oriented companies is better than that of their counterparts. Therefore, it can be argued that social responsibility in the business world can be capitalized. It means that companies interested in their long-term success behave like good corporate citizens. A case in point is Google, which is a corporation that is planning to achieve 100 percent renewable energy use by the end of 2017 (Google, n.d.). The company also works on the reduction of its carbon footprint and encourages its workers to carpool.
Promotion of Good Corporate Citizenship
Corporations can be encouraged to behave as responsible corporate citizens. Governments around the world can take decisive steps to reduce incentives for unethical behavior. By limiting the profit motive in actions that run against that idea of social responsibility, it is possible to ensure that ethical problems arise more rarely. The reduction of means for a corporate crime can be achieved with more governmental control. Finally, legal pressures can force executives to adhere to CSR practices.
It should also be kept in mind that many corporations are responsible for lifting people out of poverty around the globe. By providing individuals with access to cheap electricity and transportations, some corporate players are helping the world (Hodgson, 2013). It means that, if properly applied, the idea of big business is compatible with social justice. Therefore, external pressures and controls are only needed to ensure that global society is not damaged by the actions of unconscionable executives.
Findings and Implications
Unethical actions of some corporations emphasize the importance of CSR. However, internal and governmental control is not sufficient for reducing the risk of damage to the environment, society, and economy. An implication is that consumers should take more responsibility in ensuring that businesses behave as good corporate citizens. Negative word of mouth can substantially damage organizations that do not want to conduct their operations in an ethical manner (Grappi, Romani, & Bagozzi, 2013). By boycotting irresponsible businesses, customers can improve their society, in particular, and the world, in general. The most important implication of the paper is that a corporation’s contribution to society should be continuously evaluated to understand whether it is responsible for some wrongdoings.
Summary and Conclusion
The paper has analyzed the behaviors of corporate entities in the framework of CSR. Upon carefully reviewing multiple lines of investigation, it has been argued that big businesses can be both responsible and irresponsible corporate citizens. Those companies that disregard the health and wellbeing of their workers in the pursuit of profits should be punished for their actions. The same applies to corporations that pollute the environment and damage the economy. On the other hand, there are organizations that only benefit the world. Therefore, the behavior of corporations has to be closely controlled by the public.
Barnett, M. L., & Salomon, R. M. (2012). Does it pay to be really good? The shape of the relationship between social and financial performance. Strategic Management Journal, 33(11), 1304-1320.
Erkens, D. H., Hung, M., & Matos, P. (2012). Corporate governance in the 2007-2008 financial crisis: Evidence from financial institutions worldwide. Journal of Corporate Finance, 18(2), 389-411.
Google. (n.d.). 100% renewable is just the beginning. Web.
Grappi, S., Romani, S., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2013). Consumer response to corporate irresponsible behavior: Moral emotions and virtues. Journal of Business Research, 66(10), 1814-1821.
Josephs, H. K. (2013). Productions chains and workplace law violations: The case of Apple and Foxconn. Global Business Law Review, 4(2), 211-227.
Korten, D. C. (2015). When corporations rule the world (3rd ed.). New York, NY: EDS Publications.
Lange, D., & Washburn, N. T. (2012). Understanding attributions of corporate social irresponsibility. Academy of Management, 37(2), 300-326.
Pendse, S. G. (2012). Ethical hazards: A motive, means, and opportunity approach to curbing corporate unethical behavior. Journal of Business Ethnics, 107(3), 265-279.
Stiglitz, J. E. (2015). The great divide: Unequal societies and what we can do about them. London, England: Penguin Books.