What is Meant by Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is an ethical framework and suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. Social responsibility is a duty every individual has to perform so as to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystems. A trade-off may exist between economic development, in the material sense, and the welfare of the society and environment, though this has been challenged by many reports over the past decade. Social responsibility means sustaining the equilibrium between the two. It pertains not only to business organizations but also to everyone whose any action impacts the environment. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, by performing activities that directly advance social goals.

Businesses can use ethical decision making to secure their businesses by making decisions that allow for government agencies to minimize their involvement with the corporation. For instance, if a company follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for emissions of dangerous pollutants and even goes an extra step to get involved in the community and address those concerns that the public might have; they would be less likely to have the EPA investigate them for environmental concerns. “A significant element of current thinking about privacy, however, stresses “self-regulation” rather than market or government mechanisms for protecting personal information”. According to some experts, most rules and regulations are formed due to public outcry, which threatens profit maximization and therefore the well-being of the shareholder, and that if there is not outcry there often will be limited regulation.

Social responsibility means that the government (including public corporations), NGOs, business organizations, and individuals have a responsibility to society to eliminate corruption and irresponsible or unethical behavior that might harm its people or the environment.

Corporate social responsibility, therefore, refers to a business’s obligation to set policies, make decisions, and follow courses of action that are desirable in terms of the values and objectives of society — its customers, employees, and people in the community.

Businesses accept social responsibilities when they take their objectives beyond what the business, the economy, and the law require and do what they feel are ethically and socially desirable. For example, such ethical and desirable actions might include raising the safety standards of product and continuously striving to care for the well-being of workers and their customers.

These ethical and desirable actions that businesses may choose to undertake may be well above the legally required standards.

Look at the following examples of Namibian businesses fulfilling their social responsibility towards the Namibian society:

Many companies are increasingly working on cultivating a social responsibility, whatever their actual practices. They are eager to prove that you can save the planet, help the poor and make money at the same time.

As an entrepreneur how can you behave in an ethically social responsible way towards the following?

Employees Responsibility

The main responsibility of any business is towards its employees. It is imperative that a business always looks for ways to support and empower its employees. A happy workforce, a well-motivated and a loyal workforce, leads to improvements in productivity and quality. Your responsibility towards your workers goes beyond just paying them salaries. A socially responsible business tries to ensure that its working environment is free from sexual harassment and discrimination.

Customers Responsibility

Customers Social Responsibility

Even if you are an entrepreneur, you are also a customer at a business where you buy your products. It is, therefore, important that you live and practice the notion, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That means that you should treat your customers in the same way as you expect to be treated as a customer by other businesses. A business’s social responsibility actions towards its customers are rewarded by loyal customers and by their word-of-mouth advertising.

Government Responsibility

The acceptance of social responsibility has increased in the government because through policies, the government is forcing businesses to act responsibly. When a firm act in a socially responsible manner, it sets policies, makes decisions and follows courses of action that are desirable in terms of the values and objectives of its different stakeholders. To pay tax is a business’ responsibility towards the Government of a country.

Society/Community Responsibility

Social investment looks at what a business is doing for a community. Businesses can engage in social responsibility programs to help the community fight their social problems, such as drug addiction in impoverished areas or providing recreation activities for the youth. These programs normally aim to improve standards of living and create more stable and peaceful communities.

Corporate Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility or CSR has been defined by Lord Holme and Richard Watts of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s publication “Making Good Business Sense” 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 the local community and society at large.” CSR is one of the newest management strategies where companies try to create a positive impact on society while doing business. Evidence suggests that CSR taken on voluntarily by companies will be much more effective than CSR mandated by governments. There is no clear-cut definition of what CSR comprises. Every company has different CSR objectives through the main motive is the same. All companies have a two-point agenda to improve qualitatively (the management of people and processes) and quantitatively (the impact on society). The second is as important as the first and stakeholders of every company are increasingly taking an interest in “the outer circle”-the activities of the company and how these are impacting the environment and society. The other motive behind this is that the companies should not be focused only on the maximization of profits.

Social responsibility, therefore, is about holding a group, organization or company accountable for the effects it has on the people within the company, people working with the company, the community in which the company operates and those who buy from the company.

How Does an Individual Become Socially Responsible?

The Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation (WCIF), Bulgaria, describes ISR in its position statement on Social Responsibility as, “The individual social responsibility includes the engagement of each person towards the community where he lives, which can be expressed as an interest towards what’s happening in the community, as well as in the active participation in the solving of some of the local problems. Under community, we understand the village, the small town or the residential complex in the big city, where lives every one of us. Each community lives its own life that undergoes a process of development all the time. And every one of us could take part in that development in different ways, for example by taking part in cleaning of the street on which he lives, by taking part in organization of an event, connected with the history of the town or the village or by rendering social services to children without parents or elderly people. The individual social responsibility also could be expressed in making donations for significant for the society causes – social, cultural or ecological. There are many ways of donating, as for example donating of goods or donating money through a bank account or online”

Social Responsibility can be “negative,” in that it is a responsibility to refrain from acting (resistance stance) or it can be “positive,” meaning there is a responsibility to act (proactive stance). Being socially responsible not only requires participating in socially responsible activities like recycling, volunteering and mentoring, but to actually make it a lifestyle. Only through a commitment to embrace and embed social responsibility into your personal value and belief system can you truly become socially responsible in all you do.

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur Social Responsibility
Entrepreneur Social Responsibility

Social entrepreneurs work to solve critical social problems and address basic unmet needs through entrepreneurship. Their innovations create system change, improving the lives of underserved or marginalized groups.

Despite the increased attention that social entrepreneurship has received in recent years, there is no precise definition. Various organizations describe social entrepreneurship differently:

Ashoka defines social entrepreneurs as “individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems” who “find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to move in different directions.”

The Skoll Foundation calls social entrepreneurs “society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world.”

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg offer a more rigorous definition. A social entrepreneur is “someone who targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity; who brings to bear on this situation his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude; and who aims for and ultimately affects the establishment of a new stable equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.”


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