A man was standing waiting for the bus, idly watching a group of children playing in a pond on the opposite side of the road.
As he watched, one of the boys drifted away from the edge, arms moving above his head like he was panicking, but no one else seemed to notice. The man, seeing this, started forward, but noticed that his bus was coming.
Knowing that the next bus meant waiting an hour, the main made a judgement call. There were many other people in the pond, and surely one of them would notice and save the boy.
So the man boarded his bus, and went to his home.
When he arrived, he found his mother, on her knees, clutching the phone, tears streaming down her face.
She turned to him, and with a voice filled with regret said ‘Your younger brother went to the pond to play with his friends, there was an accident, and he drowned.’
The man was struck dumb, and could only repeat to himself, again and again, ‘If only I knew that it was my brother.’
The moral of this story is simple.
By choosing to help others, often, we help ourselves, whether we know it or not.
But how does this relate to the focus of this article, about how our leaders should focus on corporate social responsibility, and the impact thereof.
What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a term first became popular in the 1960s, and it specifically means the ethical framework that companies should adopt when doing business, because as public entities they have an obligation to act for the greater benefit of society.
Whilst many managers focus on the economic and legal objectives, they might recoil from the idea that they should also have social targets, because it might seem unimportant, or might actively prevent a company from pursuing processes that give the highest return.
But social responsibility is vitally important. Here’s the 3 major categories that companies should focus on.
Environmental: As long as the environment has existed, humans have used the bountiful resources to improve their lives.
But industrial advances, technological gains and population increases mean that we can now harvest resources significantly faster than they are generated.
A large number of companies, and their leaders, are involved in the degradation of these resources. The last 50 years have seen significant shifts in how we operate, with huge amounts of deforestation, the growing hole in the ozone layer and the melting of the polar ice caps.
But now we are waking up to the importance of the environment, and our impact upon it. By choosing environmentally safe, green practices, companies secure our present, whilst also guaranteeing our future.
Ethical: Companies need to be profitable, but this profit should only be sought using methods that are both legal and ethical.
An ethical leader functions within the letter of the law, but they will also function within the spirit of the law. Whilst it might be legal to pay people so little that they can’t afford to live, is it right?
It used to be legal to hold slaves, and employ children. But we would baulk at the idea today. It was legal. It wasn’t right.
Ethical practice is concerned with what is correct, and what is fair.
Philanthropic: Philanthropy is all about making sure that you give back fairly when you succeed. It means making a conscious effort to benefit society, both now and in the future.
It includes things like donating money, supporting volunteering practices, events, education, and investing profits back into the communities that helped the company succeed, as well as other struggling people.