More than “hypocritical window-dressing”?

There is no transparency, no rules, it is an area of sole anarchy. Yes, it´s CSR. How come I feel this way? Let´s take McDonald´s as an example: Selling apple slices and changing the color of your logo are not really such huge CSR victories I would have to say. You still feed your customers with highly unhealthy food. And it´s okay. But do not pretend your salad is fresh and of high quality. Who has ever received a salad as depicted in the commercials at McDonald´s?

But I have been at this point in my first CSR post already until I realized that this is a pessimistic attitude towards CSR that I am trying to disprove now. So back to the disprove part. Is it really just “hypocritical window-dressing” as described by Milton Friedman in his famous New York Times article from 1970? Or has something changed with regards to the role that CSR plays nowadays? The point is, just like every company that is big enough to catch attention, CSR (as it got more and more widespread) has had its opponents. People who criticize. Always. So it is not something that has evolved within the last decade. Criticism did not change, but CSR indeed did.

Which brings me to my first point of unapproving CSR´s bad reputation:

“Ten years ago, for instance, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report. Now the majority does. More than 8,000 businesses around the world have signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards and environmental protection.” (from Business Ethics blog)

No transparency? No rules? Anarchy? – I don´t think so anymore. CSR is no longer an accessory, but more a part of business. It has to be integrated. This is also made very clear by Eric Orts, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton: “For companies to take CSR seriously, it has to be integrated into the DNA of the enterprise.”

Connect these two aspects, and the classical bad reputation of CSR is soon not longer 100% true. Rules are being established and the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a “core member” among the company´s branches, not a special add-on. As we have know found out that CSR is not “just a marketing lie”, it is now time to find on a business that has already integrated it in its model successfully.

Starbucks (the “champion”)

CSR and Starbucks are two words that are melded already. This gets undeniably clear in this paragraph of the Corporate Social Responsibility blog:

“The coffee business is currently suffering due to climate change and global warming. Farmers in coffee growing regions are going out of business due to over production. Starbucks makes it a priority to always pay coffee farmers proper wages for the coffee that they grow. They even go as far as buying all the coffee that one specific farmer can produce to create a coffee unique and exclusive to Starbucks. Not only does Starbucks work with the coffee farmers that they are purchasing from, but they also work with the local governments to ensure fair treatments, and social conditions. They meet with these governments frequently to ask for help to be socially responsible. In return, Starbucks does their best to help them by building schools and education programs.”

So what Starbucks does is two main things; first, they purchase Fair Trade Certified™ coffee as part of their supply chain strategy – so they vouchsafe the farmers are not being underpaid. Second, they engage in community-based programs to enhance the circumstances in a given country to such an extent that is within their capacities of course.

What´s the point in this?

So the point is, no company can change the world, but let´s assume all business would commit to such projects. There is no doubt that the world would at least be a better place when businesses are not harming the environment. A fellow student of mine, rosepanama has also written a blog about CSR, from a manager´s perspective though. So if you are interested in finding out more about how to integrate CSR in business, great post!  To end this week´s post I simply want to cite Matt Fair, member of “the power blog”  :

” Starbucks is a big company, but there are a lot bigger out there that don’t practice near what Starbucks does. Why not?”

I guess this is the end of the story of how my “stop pretending!” attitude turned to “stop pretending?”. Hope you enjoyed reading my post and follow it next week as well – when I present other businesses´ CSR strategies.