Social responsibility

Social responsibility is an ethical framework in which an individual is obligated to work and cooperate with other individuals and organizations for the benefit of the community that will inherit the world that individual leaves behind.[1]

Social responsibility is a duty every individual has to maintain; a balance between the economy and the ecosystem one lives within. A trade-off might perhaps exist between economic development, in the material sense,[clarification needed] and the welfare of the society and environment.[2] Social responsibility pertains not only to business organizations but also to everyone whose actions impact the environment.[3] It aims to ensure secure healthcare for people living in rural areas and eliminate barriers like distance, financial condition, etc.[citation needed] Another example is keeping the outdoors free of trash and litter by using the ethical framework combining the resources of land managers, municipalities, nonprofits, educational institutions, businesses, manufacturers, and individual volunteers, which will be required to solve the ocean microplastics crisis.[clarification needed][4] One can be socially responsible passively, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or actively, by performing activities that advance social goals. Social responsibility must be intergenerational, since the actions of one generation have consequences on those following.[5]

Corporate social responsibilityEdit

Ethical decision making by businesses can prevent costly intervention in those businesses by government agencies.[6] For instance, if a company follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for emissions of dangerous pollutants and goes further involved the community and address concerns the public might have, they might be less likely to have the EPA investigate them for environmental concerns.[6] "A significant element of current thinking about privacy, however, stresses 'self-regulation' rather than market or government mechanisms for protecting personal information."[non sequitur][7] According to some experts, most rules and regulations are formed due to public outcry, which threatens profit maximization and therefore the well-being of shareholders; if there is no outcry, there often will be limited regulation.[8]

Some critics argue that corporate social responsibility (CSR) distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing, or "greenwashing";[9] others argue that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful corporations, although there is no systematic evidence to support these criticisms. A significant number of studies have shown no negative influence on shareholder results from CSR but rather a slightly negative correlation with improved shareholder returns.[10]

Corporate social responsibility or CSR has been defined by Lord Holme and Richard Watts in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's publication "Making Good Business Sense" as "the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large." CSR is a strategy with which companies try to create a positive impact on society while doing business. Evidence suggests that CSR adopted voluntarily by companies is more effective than CSR mandated by governments.[11] There is no clear-cut definition of what CSR comprises. Every company has different CSR objectives, though the main motive is the same, though these CSR often involves conflicts of interest that must be navigated.[clarification needed][12]: 14  Companies try improve qualitatively (the management of people and processes) and quantitatively (the impact on society). Company stakeholders take an interest in "the outer circle" – how the activities of the company are impacting the environment and society.[13]

While many corporations include social responsibility in their operations, those procuring the goods and services may independently ensure the products are socially sustainable. Verification tools are available from many entities internationally,[14] for example the Underwriters Laboratories environmental standards, BioPreferred, and Green Seal. A reputation aligned with social responsibility is linked to higher profits, particularly when firms voluntarily report the positive and negative impacts of their social responsibility endeavors. [15]

Certification processes like these help corporations and their consumers identify potential risks associated with a product's lifecycle and enable end users to confirm the corporation's practices adhere to social responsibility ideals. A reputation for social responsibility leads to more positive responses toward a brand's products by inducing a reciprocal desire to help companies that have helped others, an effect that is more prominent among consumers who value helping others and is reduced if consumers doubt a firm's intentions.[16]

Scientists and engineersEdit

Are scientists and engineers morally responsible for the negative consequences that result from applications of their knowledge and inventions?[17] If scientists and engineers take pride in the positive achievements of science and technology, shouldn't they also accept responsibility for the negative consequences related to the use or abuse of scientific knowledge and technological innovations?[18] Scientists and engineers have a collective responsibility to examine the values embedded in the research problems they choose and the ethics of how they share their findings with the public.[19]

Committees of scientists and engineers are often involved in planning governmental and corporate research programs, including those devoted to the development of military technologies and weaponry.[20] Many professional societies and national organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in the United States, have ethical guidelines (see Engineering ethics and Research ethics for the conduct of scientific research and engineering).[21] Scientists and engineers, individually and collectively, have a special and greater responsibility than average citizens with respect to the generation and use of scientific knowledge.

Some argue that because of the complexity of social responsibility in research, scientists and engineers should not be blamed for all the evils created by new scientific knowledge and technological innovations.[17] First, there is fragmentation and diffusion of responsibility: Because of the intellectual and physical division of labor, the resulting fragmentation of knowledge, the high degree of specialization, and the complex and hierarchical decision-making process within corporations and government research laboratories, it is exceedingly difficult for individual scientists and engineers to control the applications of their innovations.[22] This fragmentation of work and decision-making results in fragmented moral accountability, often to the point where "everybody involved was responsible but none could be held responsible."[23]

Another problem is ignorance. The scientists and engineers cannot predict how their newly generated knowledge and technological innovations may be abused or misused for destructive purposes. The excuse of ignorance is stronger for scientists involved in very basic and fundamental research where potential applications cannot be even envisioned, than for scientists and engineers involved in applied scientific research and technological innovation since in such work objectives are well known. For example, most corporations conduct research on specific products or services that promise to yield the greatest possible profit for share-holders. Similarly, most of the research funded by governments is mission-oriented, such as protecting the environment, developing new drugs, or designing more lethal weapons. In cases where the application of scientific knowledge and technological innovation is well known a priori, a scientist or engineer cannot escape responsibility for research and technological innovation that is morally dubious.[24] As John Forge writes in Moral Responsibility and the Ignorant Scientist: "Ignorance is not an excuse precisely because scientists can be blamed for being ignorant."[25]

Another point of view is that responsibility falls on those who provide the funding for the research and technological developments (in most cases corporations and government agencies). Because taxpayers provide the funds for government-sponsored research, they and the politicians that represent them should perhaps be held accountable for the uses and abuses of science.[26] In times past scientists could often conduct research independently, but today's experimental research requires expensive laboratories and instrumentation, making scientists dependent on those who pay for their studies.

Quasi-legal instruments, or soft law principle has received some normative status in relation to private and public corporations in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights developed by the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee particularly in relation to child and maternal welfare.[clarification needed][27] The International Organization for Standardization will "encourage voluntary commitment to social responsibility and will lead to common guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluation."[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jensen, Derrick (2006). "Responsibility". Endgame. Vol. II. Toronto, ON: Seven Stories Press. p. 696. ISBN 978-1583227305.
  2. ^ Palmer, Karen (1 September 1995). "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?". The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 9 (4): 119–132. doi:10.1257/jep.9.4.119. JSTOR 2138393.
  3. ^ Perceptions and Definitions of Social Responsibility, p. 1.
  4. ^ Social Responsibility
  5. ^ Invernizzi, Diletta Colette; Locatelli, Giorgio; Brookes, Naomi J. (2017-10-01). "Managing social challenges in the nuclear decommissioning industry: A responsible approach towards better performance" (PDF). International Journal of Project Management. Social Responsibilities for the Management of Megaprojects. 35 (7): 1350–1364. doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.12.002.
  6. ^ a b Kaliski, B. (Ed.). Ethics in Management. (2001). Encyclopedia of Business and Finance (2nd ed., Vol. 1). New York: Macmillan Reference.p.2.
  7. ^ Swire, 1997
  8. ^ J. Scott Armstrong (1977). "Social Irresponsibility in Management" (PDF). Journal of Business Research. Elsevier North-Holland Inc. 15: 185–213.
  9. ^ Alejos Góngora, Claudia Lucía (2013). "Greenwashing: Only the Appearance of Sustainability". IESE. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  10. ^ Carpenter, M., Bauer, T. & Eiderdown, B. (2010). Principles of Management v1.1. Arlington, NY: Flat World Knowledge.p.3.
  11. ^ Armstrong, J. Scott; Green, Kesten C. (1 December 2012). "Effects of corporate social responsibility and irresponsibility policies" (PDF). Journal of Business Research. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  12. ^ Hirst, Scott (2016-10-01). "Social Responsibility Resolutions". The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance Discussion Paper. No. 2016-06.
  13. ^ Corporate social responsibility p. 6.
  14. ^ "Resources for Verifying Sustainable Products – GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  15. ^ Johnson, Z. (January 2019). "Self-Reporting CSR Activities: When Your Company Harms, Do You Self-Disclose?". Corporate Reputation Review. 21 (4): 153–164. doi:10.1057/s41299-018-0051-x. S2CID 170000354.
  16. ^ Johnson, Z. (2019). "Good Guys Can Finish First: How Brand Reputation Affects Extension Evaluations". Journal of Consumer Psychology. 29 (4): 565–583. doi:10.1002/jcpy.1109. S2CID 150973752.
  17. ^ a b Huesemann, Michael H., and Joyce A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, Chapter 14, "Critical Science and Social Responsibility", New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044
  18. ^ Ziman, J (1971). "Social responsibility (I) – The impact of social responsibility on science". Impact of Science on Society. 21 (2): 113–122.
  19. ^ Resnik, D. B., & Elliott, K. C. (2016). The ethical challenges of socially responsible science. Accountability in research, 23(1), 31–46. doi:10.1080/08989621.2014.1002608
  20. ^ Collins, F (1972). "Social ethics and the conduct of science – Specialization and the fragmentation of responsibility". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 196 (4): 213–222. Bibcode:1972NYASA.196..213C. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1972.tb21230.x. PMID 4504112. S2CID 38345454.
    • Leitenberg, M (1971). "Social responsibility (II) – The classical scientific ethic and strategic-weapons development". Impact of Science on Society. 21 (2): 123–136.
  21. ^ National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, The National Academies Press, 1995,
  22. ^ Collins, F (1972). "Social ethics and the conduct of science – Specialization and the fragmentation of responsibility". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 196 (4): 213–222. Bibcode:1972NYASA.196..213C. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1972.tb21230.x. PMID 4504112. S2CID 38345454.
  23. ^ Lowrance, W.W. (1985). Modern science and human values, Oxford University Press, p. 75.
  24. ^ Ravetz, J.R. (1996). Scientific knowledge and its social problems, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, p. 415.
  25. ^ Forge, J (2000). "Moral responsibility and the ignorant scientist". Science and Engineering Ethics. 6 (3): 341–349. doi:10.1007/s11948-000-0036-9. PMID 11273459. S2CID 40073027.
  26. ^ Beckwith, J.; Huang, F. (2005). "Should we make a fuss? A case for social". Nature Biotechnology. 23 (12): 1479–1480. doi:10.1038/nbt1205-1479. PMID 16333283. S2CID 20366847.
  27. ^ Faucet TA and Nasu H. Normative Foundations of Technology Transfer and Transnational Benefit Principles in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 0 : 1–26, 2009 doi:10.1093/jump/jhp021. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2009-06-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) p. 7.
  28. ^ ISO, 2009. The standard describes itself as a guide for dialogue and language, not an ation. (2009), Social Responsibility – ISO 26000, Web site: p. 8.


  • Haynes, T. (n.d.). Social Responsibility and Organizational Ethics. Retrieved May 8, 2010, from
  • Kalinda, B. (Ed.). "Social Responsibility and Organizational Ethics." (2001). Encyclopedia of Business and Finance' (2nd ed., Vol. 1). New York: Macmillan Reference.
  • Pride, William M., Hughes, Robert James, & Kickapoo, Jack R. (2008). Business (9th ed.) Boston, MA: Hough-ton McFarland Company. ISBN 0618770917

Further readingEdit

  • Crane (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Huesemann, Michael H., and Joyce A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, Chapter 14, "Critical Science and Social Responsibility", New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044, 464 pp.
  • May, Steve, George Cheney, and Juliet Roper (2007). The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195178821. OCLC 70292018.
  • McBarnet, Doreen J., Aurora Voiculescu, and Tom Campbell (2007). The New Corporate Accountability: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521868181. OCLC 181421309.
  • National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, The National Academies Press, 1995,
  • Rossi, Alice S. (2001). Caring and Doing for Others: Social Responsibility in the Domains of Family, Work, and Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226728728. OCLC 45064591.
  • Salles, Denis (2011). "Responsibility based environmental governance". S.A.P.I.EN.S. 4 (1). Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  • Wayne, Dirk Matten, Manfred Pohl, and Nick Tolhurst (Editors) (2007). The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility. London; New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0470723951.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  • Zerk, Jennifer A. (2006). Multinationals and Corporate Social Responsibility: Limitations and Opportunities in International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521844994. OCLC 76849750.