Responsibility In-Focus: Deconstructing “Corporate Social Responsibility” Concept

Responsibility In-Focus: Deconstructing “Corporate Social Responsibility” Concept

Sabyasachi Dasgupta
DOI: 10.4018/jabim.2013070103
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The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” has gained lot of momentum in the last few decades. Several scholars have tried to deconstruct what it actually means and the kind of responsibility corporate organizations have. Carroll’s pyramidal model has made significant contribution to the debate by categorizing corporate social responsibility into four broad dimensions: Economic, Legal, Ethical and Philanthropic. While several scholars have emphasized these four dimensions in different perspectives, the debate seems to remain persistent. This paper looks into different dimensions of corporate social responsibility and tries to deconstruct its primary motive. Through the scanning of literatures available on the definitions of corporate social responsibility concept, this paper tries to understand the focus of such an attempt. It then takes the help of qualitative in-depth interview methodology to understand what the corporate managers in India across sectors feel about corporate social responsibility. This leads to convergence of literature review and in-depth interview findings benefiting both academic and corporate world. The findings suggest that although companies seem to accomplish such responsibility for societal purposes, the ultimate objective is an economically viable model which leads to the sustainability of a corporate organization. A model is suggested based on the above findings.
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Literature Review

The word “social” in Corporate Social Responsibility is an interesting linchpin of understanding. Society as defined in Oxford Dictionary (2012) relevant to this paper, is “the community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations”. Usually the society of a corporate comprises of all the stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by the company’s activities. According to Freeman (1984), “A stakeholder in an organization is (by definition) any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievements of the organization’s objectives.” Taking a step further and understanding the constituents of stakeholder theory, a model developed by Werther and Chandler (2010: 35), suggests that there are three types of stakeholders which represent the ‘society’ of an organization: economic stakeholders, organizational stakeholders and societal stakeholders. All these stakeholders contribute to the ‘social’ part of Corporate Social Responsibility. The understanding of the concept of society would enable scholars to understand the environment in which both the corporate and the “society” of the corporate interact and affect each other.

The second part of the term is to understand the “social responsibility” aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility. Bowen (1953: 6) viewed social responsibility as “it (SR) refers to the obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies, to make those decisions, or to follow those lines of action which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society”. Supporting Bowen partially, another veteran scholar, McGuire (1963) stated “the idea of social responsibility supposes that the corporation has not only economic and legal obligations, but also certain responsibilities to society which extend beyond these obligations.” Again, Walton (1967) defines social responsibility as “in short, the new concept of social responsibility recognizes the intimacy of the relationships between the corporation and the society and realizes that such relationships must be kept in mind by top managers as the corporation and the related groups pursue their respective goals”. This definition of Walton indicates the interconnected nature of social responsibility that the corporate must undertake for their benefit and for the benefit of society at large.

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