Social Responsibility Series (2)
In this article, we see that an obvious solution to determining social responsibility priorities is to prioritise social responsibility activities in line with an organisationís prime business objectives.
Social responsibility encompasses a broad range of activities, from volunteer community services to employee benefit enhancements, and from helping the poor to saving the planet. In deciding what to do, many organisations will prioritise social responsibility activities in line with their prime business objectives. According to our literature review, different approaches to determining social responsibility priorities can be summarised as follows:
(a) Corporate value approach: Social responsibility priorities may be determined from an organisation's corporate values or vision/mission statements. Microsoft, for example, has its social responsibility priorities guided by its Corporate Citizenship Mission (1), which is to serve the public through innovative technologies and partnerships and to deliver business responsibilities of growth and value to customers, shareholders, and employees.
Another example is Body Shopís social responsibility priorities (2) which are based on its five core Values Principles: against animal testing, supporting community trade, activating self-esteem, defending human rights, and protecting the planet.
Social responsibility priorities identified under this approach are determined internally according to the shared values or guiding principles of an organisation.
(b) Specialisation approach: Capitalising on its strength or on areas of its specialisation is obviously the most efficient approach that an organisation can contribute to the betterment of the environment and society. For example, telecommunications providers, such as PCCW (3) and NTT DoCoMo (4), focus on social responsibility initiatives aimed at enhancing connection and communication with people by providing free hotlines for charity and fund-raising, and free phone lines for the elderly. Along this line of thinking, Microsoft also identifies opportunities to make use of its expertise to help non-government organisations (NGOs) enhance their operational and administrative efficiency by offering a free consultancy service. The specialisation approach, when used strategically, can help strengthen the corporate image of an organisation.
(c) Risk management approach: Approaching social responsibility from a risk management perspective has become popular as organisations recognise value creation (e.g. profit generation or cost saving) by identifying risks and opportunities for operations in their social responsibility regime. The MTR Corporation (MTRC), for example, identifies its social responsibility priorities based on an Enterprise Risk Management system (5), which is a framework for managing and assessing business risks and opportunities relevant to the organisationís objectives, determining a response strategy, and monitoring progress.
(d) Stakeholder engagement approach: In contrast to the above three approaches based on internal inputs, some organisations also consider the opinions of external stakeholders. For example, Coca-Cola Hellenic (6) identifies its social responsibility priorities by engaging experts representing customers, NGOs, government, business partners and academia in a group engagement session. The Coca-Cola Hellenicís key social responsibility challenges are consumer health, water stewardship, energy and climate protection, packaging and recycling, employee development, supplier engagement, and community involvement.
(e) Materiality approach: The materiality approach focuses on issues most relevant to an organisation and its stakeholders. It takes into account a wide range of considerations, which may include company objectives, strategies, policies, programmes, risk factors, stakeholder surveys/feedback/dialogues, media coverage, and discussions in informal Internet communities. Starbucks Corporation (7), for example, uses this approach to prioritise its social responsibility on three criteria: importance to and potential impact on Starbucks; importance to and potential impact on external stakeholders; and the amount of reasonable control Starbucks has over a particular issue. This approach, which is regarded as both systematic and holistic, builds on the strengths of the above four approaches.
We should note that the approaches mentioned above are only different in strategy, but not the spirit of social responsibility, as they are all based on the objectives and values of the societies they operate in. The Hong Kong Police Force, as a non-profit-making government organisation with a motto of "we serve with pride and care", should therefore consider taking an eclectic approach when determining its social responsibility priorities and promoting social responsibility within the Force.
(1) Microsoft Citizenship@Microsoft 2007-2008.
(2) The Body Shop Values Report 2007.
(3) PCCW Annual Report 2007.
(4) NTT DoCoMo Group CSR Report 2007.
(5) MTR Corporation: The Wider Perspective. Sustainability Report 2004; MTR Corporation Building Capability. Sustainability Report 2007.
(6) Coca-Cola Hellenic: Towards Substainability. Social Responsibility Report 2007.
(7) Starbucks Corporation: Fiscal 2007 Corporation Social Responsibility Annual Report.
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