Communicating Socially Responsible Initiatives: New Incentives to Sustainable Development

Communicating Socially Responsible Initiatives: New Incentives to Sustainable Development

Ekaterina Arabska (University of Agribusiness and Rural Development, Bulgaria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2193-9.ch005
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The purpose of the chapter is to present results of case studies of socially responsible initiatives and their communication inside and outside the organizations through the official websites impacting their performance and image, as well as to make recommendations for improvements. Investigations focus on forms and goals of initiatives taken by companies in Bulgaria, including examples of the influence of foreign corporate practice and experience. Theoretical and practical basis and trends, international framework, and national institutional positions and support to corporate social responsibility are discussed. Socially responsible activities are analyzed through the official websites in their short- and long-term aspects and links to sustainable development initiatives. Main CSR principles are defined, and a model is proposed containing the main steps of incorporating CSR strategies in companies and linking all that to business communications and public relations. A special focus is put on capacity building and CSR teams.
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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a modern notion and part of the activities of companies functioning in the contemporary globalized world of economic and social relations. Socially responsible behavior is accepted as the behavior taking responsibilities of societal and environmental impacts. It applies social responsible practices in response to global economic and environmental threats based on the new business culture and in relation to sustainable development. The fact that today there are many global threats requires quick reactions towards the adoption of more extended look in terms of risk management options that include environmental social and governance factors; a focus on creating long-term value in companies and markets; displaying responsibility and ethics to the forefront, to reinforce confidence. Socially responsible behavior by businesses in social and environmental terms is necessary because of immediate adverse consequences of globalization (as stated in the Corporate social responsibility strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria 2009-2013).

The question of corporate social responsibility introduces the basic positions and limitations from the point of view of modern organizations and their roles in the balancing of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social development and environmental protection (Zahariev, 2013, p. 232). Corporate social responsibility, also called corporate conscience, citizenship, social performance, sustainable responsible business, is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in mechanism of self-regulation by which the business controls and provides its active compliance with the law, ethical standards, and international norms (Pop et al., 2011). Corporate social responsibility is accepted as the responsibility and accountability of the organizations for the impacts of their decisions and activities on society and environment implemented in conditions of transparency and ethical behavior and contributing to sustainable development, human health, and social welfare. Being integrated into the organizations at all the levels and expressed by their inner and outer interactions and relations, it considers the expectations of all the parties and is in correspondence to the legislation concerning social and ecological issues and relevant international norms in the implementation of socially responsible initiatives (Nikolova & Yordanova, 2014). CSR is an activity which is not of a single performance but a sustainable process. The concept is developing into a successful business strategy for sustainable development supporting organizations in the raise of their influence on the market and also in establishing a positive public image (Bakardjieva, 2016; Nikolova et al., 2014; Bakardjieva, 2009).

Sustainable development pillars and their balancing are closely connected to the concept of corporate social responsibility. Usually, corporate social responsibility is considered as voluntary concerns, actions, and relations in contemporary business (responsible behavior) concerning employment, environment, and consumers. Social responsibility is the responsibility of companies (decisions and activities, interactions) of their impacts on society and the environment. Its implementation should be in conditions of transparency and ethical behavior concerning legislation and universal values, society needs, etc. The fields of CSR include society, environment, human capital, and labor conditions, knowledge and education, etc. Socially responsible programs should be planned, implemented, and assessed in a long-term scope.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Responsibility: A duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one's own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty for failure (Business Dictionary: ).

Corporate/Organizational Culture: Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization's goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component of any business's ultimate success or failure (Encyclopedia - Business Terms: AU62: The URL has been redirected to Please verify the URL. ).

Corporate Identity: Combination of color schemes, designs, words, etc., that a firm employs to make a visual statement about itself and to communicate its business philosophy. It is an enduring symbol of how a firm views itself, how it wishes to be seen by others, and how others recognize and remember it. Unlike corporate image (which is 'in there' changeable mental impression), corporate identity is 'out there' sensory-experience conveyed by things such as buildings, décor, logo, name, slogan, stationery, uniforms, and is largely unaffected by its financial performance and ups and downs in its fortunes. Corporate-identity is either strong or weak (not positive, negative, or neutral like a corporate image) and is more or less permanent unless changed deliberately ( ).

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC): This is an alternative term introduced by the OECD in close cooperation with business, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. The OECD has defined RBC as “making a positive contribution to economic, environmental and social progress with a view to achieving sustainable development and avoiding and addressing adverse impacts related to an enterprise's direct and indirect operations, products or services” ( ).

Communication: Two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas, and feelings but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places. In business, it is a key function of management--an organization cannot operate without communication between levels, departments, and employees (Business Dictionary: ).

Corporate Image: The perception of a corporation held by the public, based on how it is portrayed through branding, public relations efforts, news media, stakeholders, employees, labor unions and consumer advocacy organizations. Companies invest a substantial portion of marketing and advertising dollars to build and maintain a positive corporate image, which is critical to their competitive standing ( ).

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