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Text 5. Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a special concept in the business world. In the late 20th century, a growing number of corporations began to think about their impacts on society at large, primarily because consumers became more aware of corporate activities around the world. Many of these corporations decided to embark on Corporate Social Responsibility programmes designed to offset some of their effects on the world while also generally improving corporate practices. CSR has both fans and detractors, as one might imagine. The fact that the issue has become so publicized is viewed as a positive start by many people on both sides.

A company which has decided to establish a Corporate Social Responsibility programme generally includes a discussion of the programme in its mission statement, making the existence of the programme transparent to stockholders and other interested parties. Most corporations also have a CSR department, which manages the company's social programmes and make sure that the company's efforts in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility remain in the eyes of the public.

The scope of a Corporate Social Responsibility programme tends to be most varied. Many corporations start at home, by trying to include improved conditions for their employees, with offerings like higher wages and health benefits. The next step often addresses corporate suppliers, both at home and abroad, with a focus on creating production without the use of child labour and other ethically questionable practices. Many corporations also add a charitable aspect to their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. For example, an oil company might contribute to habitat restoration in the area historically used for resource extraction. Other companies simply donate large amounts of funds to charities, usually commonly tied in with their own work.

Fans of CSR suggest that these voluntary efforts on the part of corporations show a genuine desire to do business in an ethical and responsible way. Some more cynical fans also point out that corporations known for their CSR programmes tend to retain employees longer. Furthermore, companies which tout Corporate Social Responsibility programmes often perform well on the market, with consumers actively seeking out their products. Detractors believe, however, that Corporate Social Responsibility is simply a smokescreen or window dressing which covers up more egregious issues. By putting their ethical initiatives at the forefront, companies can bypass a great deal of consumer concern.

Answer the questions:

1. What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

2. Why did corporations begin to think about their impacts on society?

3. Why did corporations choose CSR programmes?

4. What steps do corporations usually take to establish a Corporate Social Responsibility programme?

5. Who usually manages the company's social programmes?

6. What do corporations try to offer to their employees?

7. What other aspects do corporations add to their programmes?

8. What do CSR fans suggest?

9. What do detractors think of CSR programmes?

10. What is your personal attitude to CSR programmes?


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