Practicing Socially Responsible Practices Internally

In previous articles, we have seen how companies need to adopt CSR as a business need and imperative. The role of media and advocacy groups was discussed as well. In this article, we turn to a crucial but often neglected aspect of a company’s social responsibility i.e. the need to be socially conscious with its own employees and other stakeholders.

Practicing CSR for external consumption and as a means to look good in the eyes of society would amount to nothing if the internal environment of the organization is driven by harassment, excessive coercion and intolerance towards diversity. In such cases, the company would be hypocritical in its approach if it says that it is socially responsible. There are many examples of companies that have failed to set right their environments though outwardly they claim that they are socially responsible.

If we take the example of Infosys that has been witnessing a high turnover of employees in recent years because of harsh working conditions, we find that it is the classic example of a company that does not practice what it preaches.

We certainly do not want to belittle Infosys because its achievements are legendary. Just that we would like to draw attention to the fact that the sexual harassment case involving its ex-sales head Phaneesh Murthy is representative of the fact that companies need to be tolerant towards diversity internally as well if they are said to be socially responsible. Of course, the aftermath of the case was handled well which speaks volumes about the maturity of the organizational processes. However, the larger point is that companies need to encourage and tolerate diversity if they are to win public approval and show that they really care about social responsibility.

The recent instances of companies having issues with labor management and which otherwise follow CSR is another instance of the fact that it is high time these companies followed the adage: Charity Begins at Home. Some examples are the lockdown of the Maruti Plant in Manesar, India and internationally, the troubles that Apple is facing in China because of discriminatory, oppressive and unsafe working conditions in its factories in that country. Since both these companies are reputed to be socially conscious, the point that they need to set their own house in order first need not be belabored.

The fact of the matter is that bad press arising out of such instances of misconduct hits any company hard and more so if the overly stated goal of the company is to be socially responsible. Hence, the overriding conclusion is that companies need to be mature and realize that they must practice socially conscious policies with their workforce as well. Simply launching charitable trusts and foundations when the workplace environment is vitiated does not serve the company’s purpose. In fact, it does more harm than good as the critics would use these instances as an opportunity to launch attacks on the company and its policies thereby weakening the trust that the company enjoys with consumers.

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Corporate Social Responsibility