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Corporations have a responsibility of protecting consumers who consume their products. It is significant that the world over Corporate Social Responsibility has taken root in all profitable companies and corporations. With regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; firms and companies must carry out activities that are for the good of all citizens in addition to those that earn them profits. This is aimed at creating a friendly environment that favors the existence of both the public and the company; for instance corporations should create relationships with their customers which go beyond finances. Corporate responsibility is key in the development of any business organization while personal responsibility fosters the wellbeing of an individual.
It has emerged in recent times that some companies are unwilling to undertake social responsibility because they fear loosing their profits. Some companies may indulge in activities that are responsible for environmental pollution thus making the public to face social harms that could not have been without such corporations. Governments in this case have come up with regulations that are aimed at forcing such organization to take corporate responsibility in order to maintain a good and favorable environment for all. For example, the government wants each and every company to consider its carbon footprint and water foot print. In addition other watchdogs and advocates like civil societies have come out strongly to constrain corporate behaviors of certain companies and thus reducing social welfare. Companies can still do well by doing good, but more often they don't. The most pervasive and persistent problems of the society are because of the companies seeking to maximize their profits.
Studies have shown that companies must be accountable for their actions and assume responsibilities. Rather than monitoring, auditing and reporting on the vast activities of corporations, they must also put emphasize on complaint procedures that focus on specific abuses of corporate power or instances of malpractices. In addition, apart from corporate self-regulation and voluntary approaches as an alternative to governmental and international regulations, the company should call for a mix of both voluntary and legal approaches. This paper seeks to discuss to a great extent where personal responsibility ends and corporate responsibility begin especially in food and drink sector.
Corporate social responsibility involves engaging all stakeholders both internal and external, measuring the positive and negative impacts that a company's actions have on business and society, and minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing positive ones. In corporate social responsibility there are five core values that must be adhered to: compassion, honesty, fairness, respect, and responsibility.
Compassion is whereby the company shares some of its success with those who are less fortunate in the society through company involvement in the community using the 7Ps strategy: People, Premises, Product, Promotions, Purchasing, Power, and Profit. Honesty; the company should show transparency in all its business dealings with both internal and external stakeholders. Fairness; this comes in especially in the treatment of staff by addressing health and the well-being of its employees. Not only in terms of health and safety but also in relation to work and life balance and also by providing opportunities for continuous learning improvement.
Respect; the company should not only tolerate but rather encourage diversity in terms of respecting individuals and contributions they can make regardless of gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation. Responsibility; the company should recognize the need for sustainable development and that it is the mandate of the company to take the responsibility for the environmental impacts that it has.
It is paramount and fundamental that companies recognize matters of social importance and address them accordingly and responsibly. It has been found out that companies and corporations that undertake social responsibility earn reputations of being good corporate citizens thus they enjoy diverse benefits like: acquiring and retaining satisfied customers, attracting capital, and recruiting and retaining talented manpower. Identifying and developing corporate social responsibility policies and strategies takes time and requires commitment by companies. This task is always arduous as dissimilar issues are important and relevant to different stakeholders of the company including social, economic and environmental. With regard to this, there are five faces of corporate responsibility: defensive, compliant, managerial, strategic, and civil.
Defensive stage is where companies when first criticized over a problem or an issue they take a defensive legalistic stance. For instance they reject the allegations of any wrongdoing thereby refusing to take responsibility of their mess by arguing that addressing or fixing the problem is not their job. Citing McDonald's company as an example, in 2002 a SuperSize Me documentary demonstrated an actual steady McDonald's diet of burgers and fries will cause one to gain weight. In response to this, the public inevitably associated the rising obesity rates in US with a diet in fat-laden fast foods. That year McDonald's got a lot of attention from obese adults and teenagers who filed suits against the company. The company's response to the public outcry was defensive and in fact went a head and disclosed nutritional information about its foods. Some managers argued that the company offer healthy choices and it is up to an individual to eat responsibly.
Compliant stage is a point where companies formulate and adopt policies that acknowledge the wishes of the public. As a matter of fact, they only do what they have to do to satisfy their critics. Their main concern is to protect brands or reputations and to reduce the risk of litigation. With continued public outcry about McDonald's in 2004, the company feared that the criticism would escalate and tarnish the company reputation. The company was forced to move from a defensive stance to a compliant stage and announced that it was eliminating its super-size option. The company accepted the people's verdict.
Managerial stage is when the problems becomes eminent and it is clear that it won't go away, companies admit and therefore, they are called upon to take responsibility act, hence they look for practical long-term solution. With continued criticism of McDonald's customers stayed away and the company's profits plummeted. This caused the company to search for new strategies to win back customers and keep them in the long-run. One of the strategies they came up with was a healthier menu. The company became serious with salads and introduced new improved premium salads which was complete with Newman's Own salad dressing. Secondly, the company improved the Happy Meal by allowing children substitute apple slices and low-fat milk for fries and soda. They used celebrities like Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer to promote the adult version of Happy Meal. The fat calories in Chicken McNuggets were reduced by coming up with all-white meat with McNuggets. These new strategies helped the company revamp itself back to profitability.
Strategic stage is where the company start reaping the benefits of acting responsibly. In fact they come to discover that responding to the public gives them a competitive edge and enhances long-term success. McDonald's new focus on healthy choices worked magic, and customers returned. For instance, McDonald's salads were well received and in fact accounted for 10% of the total sale. At an overall view, the financial situation of the company improved: the sales increased and net sales increased. To spice up their corporate responsibility, the company launched a new active-awareness campaign with a slogan "It's what I eat and what I do â€¦â€¦. I'm lovin' it." In essence the company demonstrated its concern for the health its stakeholders particularly customers through permanent menu changes and emphasis on importance of physical fitness.
The civil stage is where many companies recognize the ultimate importance of getting other companies to follow their lead. This may be through promoting participation by other firms in their industry, and endorsing the principle that the public be best served through collective action. With regard to this, McDonalds is yet to advance to this stage; the company has been unable to enlist the cooperation of other fast-food companies in fostering that adults and children eat healthier foods. Currently it is difficult to envisage whether the company will live up to this status, or even stick with its healthier lifestyle themes.
In actually sense it is difficult to distinguish between corporate and personal responsibility especially in food and drinks sector. It is indeed a big challenge in life; for example alcohol companies urging drinkers to drink responsibly while to them themselves making profits is what will sustain them in the market. Without selling surpluses of the alcoholic drinks they will not be able to make profits. In most cases governments across the globe have developed rules that place the line of responsibility as close as possible to corporations, making them to be more responsible in solving theses challenges notwithstanding the crucial role that other stakeholders take. In this case, shall we be honesty enough to hold McDonald's responsible for what we eat? In part, we can say yes, because companies must play constructive and proactive roles in addressing relevant issues. On the other hand we can say no, because we can not solve a problem by blaming the company and still we expect them to act unilaterally.
Problems arising form the foods and drinks sector are always systemic and require a deep understanding of their main root causes and levers for change before coming up with solutions. For instance, alcohol manufacturers coming up with policies that urge drinkers to drink responsibly will not work in the long run, because the drinkers will not pay attention. For this matter, we need to better understand why people destruct themselves and come up with intervention measures that will address the root causes of the problems.
In foods and drinks sector where profits and social welfare is in jeopardy, personal responsibility does not help but rather corporate social responsibility takes precedence to alleviate the situation. Most fast food outlets have expanded and increased there profits by expanding their offerings including salads and other food options designed to appeal to health-conscious consumers. In the same industries other companies continue to acquire increased revenues from in low fat, whole grain and other foods growing in popularity. In this industry when corporate social responsibility is enhanced everybody wins.
It is therefore important to spread the responsibility around especially in the food and drink sector thereby stopping expectation that one actor should take the responsibility for a problem. This will only be possible by bringing together all stakeholders to salvage the problem. For example the initiative of PepsiCo, of shifting to a healthier product portfolio, improving its market portfolio, it entered into partnership with Health Weight Commitment Foundation. This helped PepsiCo and citizens at large.
From the above discussion, a general outlook of companies is that they comprise of people; companies are people with legal rights like those that actual people have. The only distinction between individuals and companies is that companies can operate and go on endlessly while individuals have to die. Accountability in both cases is about taking responsibility and telling the truth all the time. In a corporation's setting telling the truth or being accountable entails preparing and producing a report which clearly states what the company has done; be it good or bad and what it takes responsibility for. Such a report should be one that is believed by the company's stakeholders; those who can directly affect the company or can directly be affected by the company.
Personal accountability is like taking cure (therapy) whereby the main goal is to honestly and truthfully talk about you to the therapist. In essence it is just taking responsibility for oneself and being able to associate or link that to others. Personal accountability/responsibility is like self governance and understanding the impact you have on others and acting according to their needs as well as your own. On the other hand for companies, self-governance is knowing its impacts on social, economic, and environmental aspects and managing these aspects in a balanced way taking into consideration the needs of all stakeholders, especially the most disadvantaged.
In order to accomplish the above stated conditions, ethics takes center stage; personal and corporate. Most corporations across the globe have established codes of ethics that are meant for governing the behaviors of their employees. Employees are called upon to follow codes of correct behavior while undertaking their duties at the company. It is common knowledge that corporations are fundamentally based upon performance and profit; therefore, it is necessary that corporations understand that ethical approach of purpose; principle and consequence are integral components of social business performance. In relation to this, it is important to incorporate ethics and morality within the structure of a corporation. It is significant that social corporate responsibility exist within every corporation's infrastructure. In addition, ethics, business and society should work hand in hand to ensure each and every stakeholder benefits from the corporation; without this, there is no purpose for their existence. Unethical behaviors and practices create a contempt atmosphere and distrust, and thus making consumers have ill motives towards the corporation and its products at large. Business ethics are essential and crucial factors in any successful corporation.
For one to maintain a moral and conscious outlook in a corporation he should ask himself the following questions to determine whether a particular action he undertakes is morally acceptable: what is the ethical concern? Am I being true to myself? Why is this bothering me? Is it my problem? What do others think? Who else matters? Will my decision harm others? These are some of the personal responsibility that one must undertake before making any decision in a company setting to ensure that no legal action can be taken against him in case other company stakeholders are harmed or injured.
Establishing rational ethical guidelines thus appropriate corporate social responsibility must come from a management perspective. This is the primary source for company policies. For instance when coming up with such guidelines, the management should take into account the following questions: should the decision be made for the company or for personal gain? Is there a time when an individual's interest supersedes those of the masses? How many will reap the benefits of the individualized attention at the expense of all others? As we have seen there are many ethical questions posed throughout corporations and social worlds and if right answers are acted upon then there could be no problems between the business and the social sector at large.
Since time immemorial ethical problems of personal and public decision making have been there; therefore there is need to undertake ethical reflections before making any decision. It is true that ethical decision making goes hand in hand with sound business decision but in most cases this concept is not always followed. Acting ethically is argued to be the basis on which good business practices are founded, and it represents the moral perspective though with a universal theme, it is still interpretational. In relation to this it is true to say that, best practices are key functions of professional institutions and therefore it is crucial to train and monitor standards.
It is an obvious fact that individuals reserve their own value determination with respect to ethical behavior; the character and values that determine the identity of an individual or group. Individuals have build-in ethical responses, for instance, they can identify if certain actions are wrong or morally praiseworthy. Values like honesty, promise-keeping, benevolence and justice are crucial to the human existence domain. A person must be responsible for his own actions with regard to the existing ethics principles that are universally available.
Accordingly, without fundamental standards of fair dealing and mutual respect, corporations can not thrive in any society. Therefore, establishing and maintaining an ethical culture within corporations is crucial for continued profitability and success for any corporation. Companies should have polices that provide reminders to their employees for constant nurturing of moral judgment and a specific code of ethics as a means of propagating the positive image of the company.
The primary essentials of such nurturing include having a clear and concise directness, which is substantiated by culture; appropriate and applicable conformity with regard to difficult situations; managerial involvement and awareness on ethics issues; a nurturing program that is wholeheartedly supported by top management; and staff involvement. With this, any decision made by an employee will be both for the public and company good.
The purpose of social corporate responsibility is to determine the values of the corporation to the society. Keeping in mind that human beings must coexist, there has to be degree of consideration with regard to business values. Without this, there would be no sense of tolerance or respect for individual life. It is noteworthy that people abide by an ethical code that ensures proper behavior amongst the global citizens. Defining ethics is basically defining man's proper values and interests, a concept that must exist with the demarcations of all business infrastructures.
In conclusion, personal responsibility in foods and drinks sector ends when corporate activities of a given corporation goes beyond affecting more than one individual. It is paramount and fundamental that companies recognize matters of social importance and address them accordingly and responsibly. To be more specific, in foods and drinks sector where profits and social welfare is in jeopardy, personal responsibility does not help but rather corporate social responsibility takes precedence to alleviate the situation. Establishing rational ethical guidelines thus appropriate corporate social responsibility must come from a management perspective. This is key in ensuring that companies get to be more accountable to their action rather than just being responsible. Governmental and international social corporate rules and regulations should come into play to ensure that social issues affecting the society are distinctively addressed.