Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
CSR in Practice: Delving Deep
Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 24, Issue 8.
Edited by Andrew Kakabadse, Nada Kakabadse, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2007
The editors of this book, who are also its principal contributors, adopt the view that business has a role to play in society that, if not enacted, will result in damage to the business. There is therefore a need to gain an understanding of what this role encompasses and how to appropriately develop, implement and manage relevant strategies. More specifically, the contributors address the integration of corporate responsibility into organisational strategy and operations in order to achieve long-term business success. Business has interdependence with the environment and the society in which it operates: the power and reach of business today means that owner/shareholder self-interest can no longer be a business’s sole concern.
A corporate approach to socially responsible business operations is a necessity rather than a voluntary practice, therefore it must be made to work. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) goes by many names and covers many prevailing paradigms, such as “stakeholder management” and “business in society”. The editors note that CSR is a complex topic that is a meeting point of philosophy, sociology, organisational and strategic literatures, micro economics and a dash of psychology.
The bulk of the book comprises case study reports. These case studies were initiated so as to inquire into the application of CSR in order to understand how CSR can be more efficiently and effectively adopted: delving deep understanding what happens in practice and developing the action steps about making CSR work. Through these inquiries, four considerations for effective CSR adoption are identified and which are the themes addressed via the book. The themes are: at least know what you are talking about; reflect on what you are doing and would like to do; recognise what is happening around you, look at the broader picture and do not accept today’s reality as normal; and so, with all this insight, what are you really minded to do? The authors contend that the manner of adoption of the four considerations is context specific, influenced by things such as personal values and an organisation’s position on its economic life cycle.
Chapter 1 addresses the competing theories on CSR, their historical development and the benefits possible through harmonisation of personal and organisational values and expectations; the complexity of the subject demonstrated by the fact that it is the longest chapter of the book. Chapter 2 examines a CSR application, contrasting the views and expectations of the corporate centre at one end of the supply chain with those of the village suppliers of the raw material at the other end: the need for corporate discipline is paramount for success. Chapter 3’s case study examines the leadership discipline required to do what is right, highlighting differing stakeholder expectations and the underlying tension between cost and CSR pursuit. Chapter 4 contrasts the dilemma that can exist between personal gain and current reward, and long-term relationship building and organisational success.
Chapter 5 examines the ethical determination of medical practice through the Hippocratic oath and its competition with patient demands for ”service on demand” and hospital concerns regarding economic sustainability. Chapter 6 returns to ethical tensions through the lends of insider trading in stock exchanges, discussing the difficulty of complying with laws about not acting upon certain knowledge in a networked and information-rich world in which relationships and exchanges of information are the bases of success. Chapter 7 studies boardroom behaviour and the differing views inherent between American, British and European executives and the societies in which they operate. Overall, the authors establish the CSR, in whatever form, is likely to be required by investors, stock exchanges, governments and customers. The authors urge adoption of a positive approach to CSR application, in whatever form, but to couple intent with strategic, leadership and managerial skills that lead to disciplined application.
You may have the view that CSR is more of a personal voluntary commitment than anything else, or perhaps that it is good for your business’s reputation and current success, or that it is necessary for your business’s sustainability. There are choices to be made and there have been lessons that have been learned they are all addressed here. There is much in this book of benefit to multiple audiences although academics, researchers and organisational decision makers are likely to be the principal beneficiaries.
Reviewed by: David Cromb, Queensland Transport, Brisbane, Australia.
This review was originally published in Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Volume 29 Number 1, 2008, pp. 106-107.