A 21st century challenge for organisations

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The organisations of the 21st century face great challenges in incorporating the social and environmental component into their vision. They have evolved from being an entity that generates economic benefits for its shareholders to thinking in an integral way about the Common Good that involves the interested parties, the community where it operates and the reduction of negative effects on the environment.

The origin of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) dates back to the early fifties of the 20th century when the American economist Howard Bowen published Responsibilities of the businessman (1953). Throughout the work Bowen questions the responsibility of businessmen in relation to society (Taken from: Responsabilidad de las organizaciones del S XXI. ICE – IMF. 2023).

Today, taking as a reference the adverse effects of business activity on the environment, it is considered that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) should aim to ensure sustainability based on a business model that works in the following four interrelated categories:

  1. Economic: Organisations are entities with an obligation to generate economic benefits for their stakeholders in order to be sustainable over time.
  2. Legal: They must meet the requirements of the environment in which they operate, including the markets where their products or services reach.
  3. Ethical: they must act with transparency and consistency in the eyes of society.
  4. Discretionary: Senior management must manage the organisation with the conviction of respecting the values of the society in which it operates and applying good corporate governance practices.

The principles on which CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is based are:

  1. Support and respect for HR (Human Rights).
  2. It is important that companies control their subsidiaries so that these also respect such rights.
  3. Freedom of association and collective bargaining.
  4. All forms of forced labour are excluded.
  5. Abolition of child labour.
  6. Elimination of all practices that discriminate against employment or corruption.
  7. Preventive approach to avoid environmental catastrophes.
  8. Actions that promote environmentally responsible initiatives.
  9. The promotion and development of environmentally friendly technologies.
  10. Punishing conduct that involves various forms of corruption and undermines ethical conduct.

(General principles of CSR, taken from the Green Paper Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility – 2001).

Organisations have an impact on the environment in which they are installed and operate, therefore, they must consider aspects such as: labour policies, social security, the welfare and growth of their employees, and the living conditions of the surrounding community. The proper management of these aspects will have a positive impact on the reputation of the organisation, its economic benefits and new customers and investors.

An organisation’s strategy for incorporating CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) into its culture and operations should be designed for the long term, with the objective of generating benefits for the organisation and its environment in a sustainable manner. The organisation should recognise local and cultural differences, applying actions that validate these differences and that are inclusive and recognise diversity as a fundamental value of development.
The organisation should be an active player in generating solutions to potential problems arising from its activity.

Organisations that wish to secure their place in the future must work to validate an integral global vision that is environmentally friendly, inclusive and active in the objective of achieving an integral wellbeing for their stakeholders and community.

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