Business Social Responsibility:A Review


The paper is divided into two parts, first part of the paper is devoted to general description of BSR and its Importance.Another part of the paper is closely related with the main aim of the paper.The main idea is to discover and analyse those factors which have been influencing basic development of organisations today. Presently, there is an increasing concern with the social responsibilities of organisations. This is reflected in part by the extent of government action and legislation on such matters as, for instance, employment protection, equal opportunities, company’s acts, consumer law, product liability and safeguarding the environment (Mullins, 2005). Based on this the social responsibilities of organisations have turned into a legal requirement.

Business Stakeholders

Palmer and Hartley (2002) argue that business organisations should act in a socially responsible manner for two self-evident reasons: one philosophic and the other pragmatic. Philosophically, models of a responsible society require organisations to do their part along with the family and other social institutions (the schools, the religious institutions, etc.). Pragmatically, organisations have to take account of the society’s values, otherwise they will be isolated and therefore their long-term survival will be jeopardised.

Against this backdrop, business organisations have to think of their overall stakeholders, which include:

  1. Customers: The most immediate, influential and targeted stakeholder for any organisation is the customer or the consumer of its goods or services. There is an obvious controversy as to whether the customer is right in the goods and services they choose to buy from a company. It is true that sometimes customers do not recognise the long-term harmful effects of their choices such as in the case of tobacco, milk products for babies and expensive stereo equipment in the cars when safety equipment are relegated to optional extras (Palmer and Hartley, 2002). However, it is equally true that there is no ethical basis to judge whether provision of such goods and services is right or wrong.

Galbraith (1977) says the ‘customer is the king’ is no more than a myth. He maintains that the modern organisation exercises power to the extent of shaping tastes of consumers to its products. But this power is often buried down to leave nobler causes to surface. He likens this myth with the root cause of colonialism. For colonialism, we saw, was possible only because the myth of higher moral purpose regularly concealed the reality of lower economic interests. And the same is equally true with the moral cause of the business organisation.

Mullins (2005) argues that the responsibilities to consumers may be seen as no more than a natural outcome of good business. However, there are broader social responsibilities including:

a)      providing good value for money;

b)      the safety and durability of products/services;

c)      standard of after-sale service;

d)      Long-term satisfaction – serviceability, adequate supply of products/services, and spare parts and replacement parts.

e)      Fair standards of advertising and trading; and

f)        Full and unambiguous information to potential consumers.

  1. Employees: social responsibilities of the firms towards their employees extend beyond the terms and conditions of the contract to include: justice in treatment; democratic functioning of the organisation; training in new skills and technologies; effective personnel and employment relations policies and practices; and provision of social and leisure facilitates (Mullins, 2005).

Today, in increasing competitive markets, customers take into consideration the ethics of the employment practices exercised by a firm when evaluating alternative products (Palmer and Hartley, 2002).

  1. Local Communities: firms often try to be seen as friendly to their neighbourhood. Although this might be considered a genuine concern or just an attempt to buy favour. In both cases, one might argue, the organisations will adopt a proactive tendency to community rather than to wait for long and be reactive. 
  2. Governments: Governments depend on the private businesses to get a sizable portion of revues through taxation. In addition, governments also depend on the business organisations to take greater roles in society and to achieve several economic and social objectives such as the regional economic development, training and limitations on the sales of tobacco, for instance.
  3. Intermediaries: Possible social responsibilities include: fair standards of trading; honouring terms and conditions of purchase or sale; and settlement dates (i. e. payment of accounts).
  4. Suppliers: Taking account of the needs of suppliers is certainly a combination of shrewd business sense and good ethical practice (Palmer and Hartley, 2002).
  5. The Financial Community: A major group within this framework is the shareholders, who expect a fair financial return as payment for risk bearing and the use of their capital. Shareholders also have the right to participate in policy decisions and to question top management on the affairs of the company (Mullins, 2005). Management of the firms should present full information to the shareholders. In the final analyses, shareholders have to be reassured that the organisation is going to achieve its stated objectives (Palmer and Hartley, 2002).

The Societal Marketing Concept

As the business organisation considers the above broader range of stakeholders, it becomes necessary to think of the social welfare in the context of the external costs and benefits of the actions conducted by that firm. In this framework, one has to consider the positive and negative externalities of a firm’s operations. Indeed Ronald Coase (1960) illustrates the difficulty of the issue by quoting the standard example of a factory the smoke of which has harmful effects on those occupying neighbouring properties. Coase argues that the difficulty of dealing with positive and negative externalities stems largely from the absence of property rights.

Based on Mullins (2005), there is a diversity of opinion on the issue of corporate social responsibility in general. On the one hand, there is the agency theory devised by Milton Friedman, which argues that the social responsibility of an organisation is to generate as much as possible profit for its shareholders within the rules of the game in terms of fair competition, no fraud, etc. It should be clearly understood that the managers of a firm are no more than agents working on behalf of the owners. This theory has been further refined by Sternberg to include two additional tests of the common decency (e.g. refraining from stealing, cheating, etc) and distributive justice (i. e. ensuring that rewards are proportional to contributions made). Therefore, an organisation is said to be ethical if it meets the three tests of: 1) long-term wealth growth of its owners; 2) common decency; and 3) distributive justice. If it fails in any of these three tests, the organisation is deemed unethical.

But at the other end of the spectrum, there is the stakeholder theory, which emphasises a much broader set of social responsibilities for business (Mullins, 2005).

Ecological Responsibility

Ecology and the increasing destruction of ecosystems and natural resources have warranted a widespread concern from the public, the governments and inter-governmental agencies. Shell’s Brent Spar saga provides a cogent evidence of the weight of the ecological dimension for a firm.

Moreover, business organisations throughout the world are legally required to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for their new operations or expansion of the existing ones. EIA is a careful and detailed study of the likely environmental consequences of the new development, together with plans to avoid causing damage or to repair damage that cannot be avoided (Allaby, 1986). The EIA takes into account whether resources used are renewable or non-renewable. In this sense, the rights of the future generations to exploit such resources have to be considered.

But, as Allaby elaborates, there are dangers in having too many regulations to curb the environmental impacts of the business. The cost of obeying regulations may inhibit innovation and, apart from the economic effect, this may delay or even prevent the substitution of new products and processes for old ones.

Business Ethics

The scope of business ethics is very broad, because any action by a firm or one of its employees can be done ethically or unethically (Mullins, 2005). Thus the behaviours of a business towards its customers, suppliers, competitors, employees, the environment, local communities and other stakeholders will certainly reflect the organisational cultures in terms of ethics adopted or neglected.

A valid argument can be raised as to whether businesses should pursue ethics for their own sake or as a means to future growth and long-term survival. In this sense, some researchers consider ethics as a duty, irrespective of the consequences; whereas others opt for a consequentialist view that goodness or badness of an action is only evident in the consequences of that action (Mullins, 2005).

Corporate Governance

The recent corporate scandals in theUSAhave caused public outcry that business organisations should adopt certain codes of conducts to avoid shareholders’ disappointment. Enron and WorldCom, the two giant American companies, have collapsed after a series of deliberate misleading financial accounts.

Richard C Warren (2000) thoroughly discusses corporate governance, comparing the systems ofBritain. Although each system of corporate governance has its own currency as far as the national context is concerned, but the British system seems a bit detailed, probably as a result of evolving through relatively longer period of time.

In the framework of the British combined code of corporate governance, a firm has to comply or explain: That is, to abide by the code provisions or to justify its aberration.


It is my belief that my skills as a Lecturer coupled with my own personal interests in     Modern Management and application.Throughout my academic career I have studied many modules which I forsee great use for this study from research methods to evaluation,surveys,case studies and action research.With my drive to excel in this field of study and maintain interest through to completion and research beyond,I believe my skills  will serve a great benefit to the future of this research.The framework developed in the present study is expected to be relevant to the future of the action and application oriented research in applied disciplines.In this way the results might contribute to the broader process of preparation by prospective and benchmarking companies,communities,institutions and other human collectives to deal with uncertain demands of the new millennium.


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Warren, Richard, (2000), Corporate Governance and Accountibility,First Edition,Liverpool Academic Press,Great Britain.

Mullins, Laurie J. (2005), Management and Organisational Behaviour. 7th ed. Pearson Education Limited,Essex,England.

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