Corporate social responsibilit

Corporate social responsibility may be somewhat difficult to explain as there is no commonly accepted definition of the term, yet attention to the needs of wider stakeholders than just shareholders is increasingly expected of business. Such pressure is amplified by scandals within individual companies or their supply chains, such as employee suicides at Apple’s Chinese supplier Foxconn, or systemic crises of capitalism, like the global financial crisis of 2008. Companies engage with demands for CSR for a variety of reasons. At times, there are opportunities to make money out of addressing social and environmental issues – the business case for CSR. In other cases, companies respond to societal pressure, well aware that their ‘licence to operate’ in society may otherwise be withdrawn. In addition, there are ethical pressures, a human desire to do ‘the right thing’. Today companies have a wide spectrum of CSR tools at their disposal, ranging from codes of conduct through social and environmental reporting to CSR standards. Furthermore, a veritable support industry of consultants, industry associations, NGOs and governmental bodies has grown up around CSR.
The rise of CSR tallies with many wider themes in this book. Just as economic globalization has at the same time spurred an increased awareness of differences in national culture, CSR has become a global phenomenon while national differences in socially responsible behaviour have been cast in strong relief too. As globalization is driven in particular by the ‘state-less’ MNE, CSR shows clearly that MNEs are a particular category of social actor, not just in economic terms but increasingly also in political terms. Last but not least, the intensification of relationships between social actors in different parts of the globe is clearly visible in CSR too. After assessing its stakeholders in terms of power, legitimacy and urgency, a company may well find that its most salient stakeholders, whether suppliers, providers of finance or campaigning NGOs, reside far away on different continents, yet still have the ability to influence its operations.
Last but not least, CSR, and neighbouring concepts like sustainability, have the potential to serve as new paradigm for HRM (Ehnert et al. 2014). Whereas strategic HRM often treats human resources as something to be exploited and consumed, CSR and sustainability stress the need to rethink the way companies manage and use their resources, including their human resources. Companies need to consider not just resource consumption – but also resource regeneration. The role of HRM in developing responsible and sustainable business organisations then centres on the function’s ability not only to produce but also to regenerate resources and to ensure that resource holders are willing and able to supply their resources over and over again.

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