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Milton Friedman observes that companies exist for the sole purpose of shareholder maximization and not social responsibility (Becker-Olsen and Guzmán, 2017). He states that firms should maximize profits as long as they act within the law. Archie Caroll on the other hand, notes that businesses must exploit economic, legal, ethical and discretionary aspects (Becker-Olsen and Guzmán, 2017). In the economic element, Caroll observes that firms should maximize their value then adhere to the law on the legal aspect; on this the two scholars view-points agree. However, Caroll adds that entities should also ensure ethical and discretionary conduct through Corporate Social Responsibility, abbreviated CSR (Becker-Olsen and Guzmán, 2017). Against this backdrop, this paper explores McDonald’s and British American Tobacco to reveal why corporate social responsibility is total pretence hence human rights activists should chip in to save the innocent citizen.
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The Contradicting Case of Corporate Social Irresponsibility
Becker-Olsen and Guzmán (2017) note that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is conducted to customers (fair pricing and healthy products), suppliers (paying promptly), government (paying taxes) and employees in the form of fair remuneration. British American Tobacco is a company which deals in tobacco production. The firm extends funds towards environmental conservation and protection (Harizan and Hamid, 2015). However, at the same time it pollutes the environment through cigarette smoke from its customers. Secondly, the entity warns its consumers that ‘excessive smoking is harmful to their health’, a customer phrase it claims is an element of social responsibility (Harizan and Hamid, 2015). On the contrary, cigarettes are addictive and users keep on using one stick after another helplessly, at times eventually leading contracting illnesses such as lung cancer.
In its financial reports, McDonald’s claims to be socially responsible and promises to reduce fat content in its products (Youn, Hua and Lee, 2015). The giant food store has promised to be socially responsible to its customers in more than two financial reports (Youn, Hua and Lee, 2015). However, its products continue to exhibit health effects of fast food consumption such as diabetes which has largely been responsible for the misery of a significant number of U.S citizens. In the year 2015 alone, more than 21 deaths per 100,000 residents in the U.S was attributed to diabetes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
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How Human Rights Activists and the Public Should can be Involved
The two scenarios portray that corporate social responsibility in only a vice used by companies to enhance publicity and increase profits. Both British American Tobacco and McDonald’s have maintained competitive advantage because they camouflage as socially responsible companies when in real sense they follow Milton Fried’s profit maximization perspective exclusively. Since companies falsely report on CSR, human rights activists should initiate their own annual report on Corporate Social Irresponsibility. Through this forum the public would also contribute to a company’s report by reporting cases of social irresponsibility with evidence. The action would create negative publicity which would entice corporations to stop involving in unethical activities which the government has always turned a blind eye on. Further, the stance would counter the misuse of CSR by companies to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent citizens.
Corporate Social Responsibility has been misused by pretending companies who actually dwell on Friedman’s doctrine of profit maximization to enrich themselves. McDonald’s and British American Tobacco represent many companies which engage in irresponsible activities to enrich themselves at the expense of the citizens. Such firms should hence reduce or stop engaging in such unethical vices. It is high time human rights activists engaged the public to take action and report on the incidents themselves, a counter report to publicity-intended CSR filing companies’ annual reports. The stance would stop social irresponsibility which poses harm to innocent citizens.
- Becker-Olsen, K., & Guzmán, F. (2017). Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in North America: The Past, Present and Future. In Handbook of Integrated CSR Communication. Springer International Publishing.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States [Internet]. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2017.
- Harizan, S. H., & Hamid, F. S. (2015). Corporate Social Responsibility of Tobacco Companies: A Consumer Perspective.
- Youn, H., Hua, N., & Lee, S. (2015). Does size matter? Corporate social responsibility and firm performance in the restaurant industry. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 51.