Be Honest and Truthful with all stakeholders Says Dr. Archie B Carroll

DR.Archie B Carroll Global CSR ExpertDr. Archie B Carroll, Professor of Management Emeritus,  Terry College of Business – University of Georgia In Conversation With Harsha Mukherjee

IndiaCSR News Network

Dr. Archie B. Carroll, Professor of Management Emeritus, Terry College of Business – University of Georgia has  served for 40 years on the faculty of the Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, USA. He has also served as Professor, Robert W. Scherer Chair of Management, Department Head, and Associate Dean.

He has published many articles  in leading management journals and over 20 books including multiple editions of several. He taught extensively in Executive Development Programs in both the U. S. and abroad.

Harsha Mukherjee talked to Dr. Archie B Carroll

Edited excerpts:

How has your journey been? What triggered your interest in CSR?

My interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) began in 1973 when I was asked to teach a Business & Society course in my first academic position at the University of Georgia (Athens, GA, USA).  I also attended the national Academy of Management meeting that year where they were founding a new division called the Social Issues in Management (SIM) Division.  I began my thinking and studying of companies observing what they were doing in response to the growing expectation that they become “socially responsible”.

According to you, what factors is CSR dependent upon?

Companies engage in CSR either because they have pressure and expectations from the external stakeholder environment or if they reached their own conclusion internally that their companies owes more to society than making and selling products/services at a profit.

Many companies also observe what other companies are doing and want to be like them.  As the community comes to expect more of companies, they begin to appreciate that they are multi-purpose social institutions that need to assume a larger role in society. Public education and awareness along with social movements driven by special interest groups also play an important part in driving CSR.

What areas should the developing nations who have mandated CSR such as India, work on to graduate to the next level?

The first responsibility of companies in developing nations is to become excellent and profitable providers of goods and services. This is the economic foundation expectation and requirement to build a solid financial base. Second, these companies should obey the law and comply with all regulations of the developing country.

Also Read: IndiaCSR to Conduct Training Program on CSR for Sr Management in Pune

IndiaCSR_CSR_Training_Workshop NewIf a developing nation is to have growth potential it needs a regulatory framework that companies respect and support. Third, companies should engage in ethical behaviour and practices. Be honest and truthful with all stakeholders. Provide safe products. Treat employees and consumers fairly. Protect the environment. Do not engage in corruption. Corruption cheats everyone.  Fourth, companies need to be good corporate citizens by “giving back” via philanthropy and good works to the local and state economies.

In the Four decades of your experience, what is the best CSR Case study which you admire?

I could not name one CSR case study that I most admire. Over the years I have used and also written hundreds of case studies. My preference is for shorter case studies that just describe essential information and then students need to evaluate what the company and managers ‘have done’ and describe what the company ‘should have’ done.

I like case studies that require decisions to be made and these decisions need to be based on an analysis of the complete situation in which companies and managers find themselves. Students like case studies on companies with which they are aware and have personal experience with. Walmart is always a popular company to study.

The academic and research path you’ve chosen has remarkable findings. What key points do you think practitioners should adapt from your work. It is difficult to summarize everything that practitioners should use from my research. I think a starting point is Carroll’s  Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in which managers see that they should respond to four fundamental expectations of society – economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic.

The first responsibility is to build a solid, financially sound company. Companies should aspire to create value both for themselves and for society. The purpose of business is not profit. Profit is the by product of serving constructively the needs of society to the satisfaction of society.  Second, to support their community and society, they should obey all laws and regulations. Laws and regulations represent ‘codified ethics’ that help to build a legal infrastructure or framework.

Third, managers should engage in highly ethical conduct in all that they do with respect to stakeholders. This will help them to have reputational capital such that their primary stakeholders will place faith in them to be honest, fair and to tell the truth. Finally, practitioners should want their companies to be perceived as strong corporate citizens.  All of these responsibilities should be pursued in a sustainable way such that both the current and the future generations are protected.

Each of these topics, of course, may be expanded into considerable detail. I recommend reading some of my articles or books for these details.  Or, read the works of many others.

Do you think there should be more dedicated colleges only for CSR. If yes, what departments and subjects do you think should be thought? What role would you like to play in it.

CSR can be successfully taught through existing universities and business colleges. Most leading business schools today provide opportunities to study CSR. Most often these subjects are found in Management and marketing Departments of business schools. However, other professional schools may also teach these topics as they relate to their professions. For example, Journalism and Law Schools my successfully teach these subjects. I have always taught in a business college and tend to think of CSR as a management topic that is best integrated with a company’s overall strategic direction.

What are the verticals (Supply Chain, marketing or any specific industry sector) in CSR which requires prime attention of the Corporates?

Certainly CSR should be manifested in supply chains both towards manufacturing at one extreme and distribution and sales at the other. This is especially vital for multinational enterprises that they carefully select countries where their products are made and that they be manufactured in as socially responsible environment as possible.

CSR definitely shows up in Marketing. Advertising honestly is a key ingredient and marketing safe products is essential too. But, other sectors such as finance, accounting, manufacturing, and insurance can benefit from CSR thinking or stakeholder thinking as well. In short, CSR should permeate the corporate structure in all functional areas and levels of the hierarchy.  The huge mistake many companies make is thinking CSR ought to be relegated to a department only. A company may have a CSR Department but its’ activities need to permeate all aspects of the business.

How do you foresee CSR developing in near future?

CSR as a core concept has spawned a number of competing and complimentary frameworks.  These include Business Ethics, Stakeholder Management, Corporate Citizenship, Sustainability, and Value Creation. CSR is at the heart or core of each of these other popular ways of thinking about the responsibilities business has to society.

I think CSR is here to stay for the foreseeable future. In Europe it has become increasingly important and it often more closely linked with government. In developing countries CSR is experiencing rapidly increasing popularity. I regularly receive e-mails from all over the world from scholars interested in these topics. I know that the growth of CSR in India has been most impressive. Two years ago I had an Indian scholar visit me and interview me and he told me how important CSR was becoming in India. CSR has a bright future. I am not sure all this growth will be transformational but some will. It is a new way of looking at economies and companies and its future is bright.

Any insights that you would like to share about your ongoing research?

As this stage of life my primary focus is on revising and updating our textbook. Next year I will work on the 10th Edition of Business & Society: Ethics, Sustainability and Stakeholder Management with my co-author Dr. Ann Buchholtz of the Rutgers University Business School.

Message for future generations

Perceive the world broadly enough that you help business enterprises to serve constructively the needs of society. Obviously, profit will follow if you do this well.  Work very hard your first five years. Work very hard your second five years. Your reputation will be established in the first decade of your work life. Strive to create a stakeholder-serving organization and business and society will prosper.

About Archie B Carroll

Professor Carroll has many awards to his name. He awarded the first Lifetime Achievement Award in Corporate Social Responsibility by the Institute of Management, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, International Association for Business and Society and the Southern Management Association. He has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years for his teaching, research and service.

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