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Educational Research (ISSN: 2141-5161) Vol. 4(9) pp. 642-653, September, 2013
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Copyright © 2013 International Research Journals
Full Length Research Paper
Quo vadis corporate social responsibility in an age
dominated by millenials
Angelo Nicolaides
Vaal University of Technology
E-mail: [email protected]
Accepted 11 September, 2013
The article discusses the concepts of business ethics and corporate social responsibility which
should be core foundations of what an organization does, as they exist in the emerging new South
African economy. The intent is to delineate a framework upon which to construct and facilitate a
better understanding of the contribution organizations should make to society in terms of the moral
imperative facing them with regard to CSR. Globalization clearly has a huge impact on ethics and
corporate social responsibility (CSR). How we should think about these issues is important and this
should be done within the context of job creation. What are the kinds of issues we should be
thinking about since the neo-classical revolution of the 1970s which supported the notion that
ethics and CSR was the exclusive domain of philosophers? In the current global scenario,
economic power is increasingly eroding political power and present-day information and
communication technologies are emphatically empowering customers and other stakeholders. If
organizations are to effectively respond to millennial customers and stakeholders who are very
aware of and sensitive to business and social responsibility issues, they need to meet any moral
obligation they have to society in general and not simply offer a façade of caring for stakeholders.
Business and ethics should be redundant to each other since organizations should concurrently
consider profits and societal support initiatives.
Keywords: Ethics, corporate social responsibility, millenials, accountability, sustainability.
"The ideals of human perfectibility and of achievement
are authentic antidotes to the existential anxiety of guilt.
What is true for an individual is also true for our
institutions. This understanding of existential guilt will
ultimately lead us to measure all institutions -such as
business, the family education, the law, commerce and
politics-by the degree to which they support the
development of the human potential" (Koestenbaum and
Block, 2001)
From a moral and ethical perspective the raison
d’etre for people and organizations should be the service
of mankind. Prudence should go far beyond profit
maximisation. Surely the entire point of business is to be
of service to someone else? The reward of service will
be more service in which organizations must be induced
to take a more holistic look at CSR. Organizational
sustainability is impossible without considering the
sustainability of society and environmental sustainability.
If organizations wish to survive they must be correct and
responsible in society and invest socially and become
true corporate citizens. There must be respect for the
rights and legitimate interests of all stakeholders and the
world financial crisis certainly demands that organizations
become truly active and effective CSR role-players.
What is a corporation and what is its purpose? In a
nutshell, it is a very privileged and dominant social
institution linked to the external environment. It is goal
oriented and designed as an amalgam of deliberately
structured and coordinated activity systems (Daft, 2001,
p. 12).Its purpose is to serve stakeholders, provide
services or satisfy needs. It allow its executives to take
risks on its behalf stakeholders and is a limited liability
institution that has huge responsibility to engage with the
greater good and it supports innovation and
entrepreneurship which are necessary to allow society to
develop. How they prioritise demand issues for
stakeholders is critical to their sustainability. Corporations
are responsible to shareholders and stakeholders. CSR
Nicolaides 643
refers to satisfying the responsibilities as well as
obligations that an organization has toward all of its
stakeholders. When we however scrutinize certain
corporate practices, such as profits versus environmental
protection, CSR assists us in differentiating between
stakeholder expectations and corporate obligations. One
of the main issues is whether organizations are in fact
bound to provide environmental protection no matter
what cost or are they obligated to maximize profits for
shareholders’ at the expense of the
environment? What is the moral imperative? In terms of
the Nobel-Prize recipient Milton Friedman’s 1970 view,
their function is primarily to increase value for
shareholders. He argued that it is only individual people
who have moral obligation for their actions and managers
are responsible for acting only in the interests of
shareholders. He also stated that social issues are the
responsibility of the state and not corporations. He was of
course not the only one thinking in these lines.
Organizations should however create value for all
stakeholders and not exist in isolation. Business ethics
may well be an oxymoron to many, but stakeholders are
living people and so organizations should think of the
economic and social impacts of their products and seek
out the intersection between their interests and those of
stakeholders. While the stakeholder philosophy is
common knowledge, it remains in many ways
subordinate to the shareholder philosophy but new
values and beliefs are surfacing in a wide stratum of
society and these play a part in influencing how
organizations operate.
It was however corporations that came up with the
notion of CSR since they would benefit from a voluntary
move towards CSR. It would be in their interest to do
something for society voluntarily rather than be regulated
to do something. Consequently, global society has
established norms and guiding principles or standards of
conduct which are both legal and implied which are
intended to guide businesses in their endeavours to
increase their ‘bottom-line’ and make profits without in
any way impairing society as a whole. Corporations are
legally ‘artificial persons’ and thus have rights and
responsibilities. They are owned by shareholders but
subsist independently of them. Their CEOs, directors and
managers have a fiduciary obligation to protect the
investments of shareholders. In South Africa there are no
special laws that standardize CSR activities but there are
a string of laws that speak about the responsibility of
organizations towards society in general.
Research Question
Review articles generally summarize the current state of
knowledge of a topic. They create an understanding of
the topic for the reader by discussing finding presented
from reading a wide range of literature on the topic. The
article was systematically designed to address very
straightforward questions including: What CSR is, what
are organizations doing in this regard and how can
millenials impact what an organization does? The goal
was to critically evaluate and explore CSR, millenials and
related topics in the literature in a systematic and
comprehensive way by examining a cross-section of
relevant literature. It examined and synthesized the
finding of selected research contributions published by
other authors and allowed the researcher to make
conclusions. The primary purpose was to examine the
current state of thinking on CSR initiatives and the role of
millenials and to produce a coherent argument for CSR.
The basic methodological approach selected for this
study was the content analysis of full text articles,
websites and other publications provisionally identified as
relevant to CSR globally and in South Africa as well as
the millennial generation. It was clear from what was
sourced that the nature of scholarship on CSR is
continuing to evolve in a seemingly new direction in
which it is regarded as a necessary part of an
organizations operating procedure.
Ethics and CSR
The notions of business ethics and CSR are often used
interchangeably even though each has a distinctive
meaning. We speak of business ethics, but what is this
precisely? Business implies "any organization whose
objective is to provide goods or services for profit"
(Velasquez, 1998, p.14). Business corporations are open
systems which are able to make profits and survive if
they balance their micro-environmental needs with those
of the broader society or macro-environment in which
they operate. The word ethics is derived from the Greek
word ethos denoting "character or custom" (Shaw and
Barry, 1995). Ferrell and Fraedrich (1997) have defined it
as "inquiry into the nature and grounds of morality where
the term morality is taken to mean moral judgments,
standards and rules of conduct". Daft (2001) defines it
as "the code of moral principles and values that governs
the behaviours of a person or group with respect to
what is right or wrong". Given that corporations are
legally responsible for their actions they are obliged
to work within legal frameworks and should of course
do so with a sense of moral responsibility to society.
Business ethics refers to "the moral principles and
standards that guide behaviour in the world of business"
(Ferrell and Fraedrich, 1997). The same authors explain
that corporate social responsibility is "an organization's
644 Educ. Res.
obligation to maximize its positive impact, and minimize
its negative impact, on society" (Ferrell and Fraedrich,
CSR should be addressing socio-economic
imbalance and contribute to meaningful transformation in
South Africa as it seeks to empower historically
disadvantaged communities to become self-sufficient. It
should also encourage employee participation in social
projects as this would serve to reinforce their corporate
value. Organizations cannot claim that social issues are
the domain of only government and argue that social
issues are not their problem. What is required by
organizations is a spirit of pro-activity where they go
beyond industry norms and essentially anticipate what
society may need. Globalization, Liberalization and the
increasing deregulation of markets since the 1980s has
given organizations additional power in society and we
thus require a new outline of business ethics and CSR.
Modern organizations are now, due to their increasing
power in society, political actors governing the citizenship
of individual stakeholders, and they need to tackle CSR
issues in a transparent manner and meet their corporate
accountability responsibilities (Crane & Matten, 2010).
Haberberg and Rieple (2008) state that CSR is an
umbrella term for corporate policies to ensure ethical
behaviour and address social problems, both inside and
outside an organization. Furthermore this is done to win
the hearts of all the participating stakeholders and this
also gives the organization a competitive advantage. If
organizations are committed to CSR they must regard it
as an integral part of the decision-making process and
highlight it in their core mission, vision, as well as values
documents and their code-of-conduct. Ideally there
should be an ethics compliance officer who should
promote CSR. Organizations should include statements
which succinctly state their goals and objectives. They
should also provide insights into the values they espouse,
their culture, and strategies for achieving their long-term
strategic objectives. The vision and mission of many
socially responsible businesses often make references to
a purpose beyond simply the bottom line or “being the
best,” and stipulate that they will employ only ethical
businesses practices and seek to create value for all the
stakeholders, which includes the principal, shareholders,
employees, customers, vendors, government, local
communities, as well as the natural environment
(Townley, 2004). The level of integrity of any organization
is affected by what leaders say and do. This implies that
ethics indicators are required which measure the capacity
of organizations to act ethically. The balanced scorecard
approach can determine to an extent if CSR results have
been achieved and if an ethical climate indeed exists
which promotes CSR. Ideally organizations should have
ethics officers who should serve as ‘gatekeepers’. In
most organizations the ‘gatekeepers’ are the CEOs. Is
this enough? Boards of companies should also be
responsible in terms of the amended Companies Act of
Corporate social responsibility is essentially a
multidimensional construct incorporating economic, legal,
ethical and philanthropic duties (Carroll, 1989) but it
essentially refers to how organizations manage the
business processes to produce an overall positive impact
on society and consider the stakeholders. Profitbility must
be balanced with doing good. The World Business
Council for Sustainable Development in its publication
Making Good Business Sense by Lord Holme and
Richard Watts makes use of the following definition:
“Corporate Social Responsibility is 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 Millenials
The millennial generation born between 1980 and 2000
are entering the world of work in large numbers and will
play a huge role in the workplace for many years to
come. Their attitudes to work will impact drastically on the
culture which will pervade the 21st century workplace. It
will not be long before the Generation X workforce are
replaced. Howe and Strauss (2000), define the millenials
as a generation born roughly the same length as the
passage from youth to adulthood, who collectively
possess a common person, i.e. attitudes about family life,
gender roles, politics, religion, culture, lifestyle and the
future. In fact by 2020, they will comprise 50% of the
global workforce. The millenials are in an advantaged
position compared to the Baby Boomer generation (X),
vis-à-vis their older managers, since the former have an
affinity with the digital world and thus have additional
skills with regards to broadband, smart-phones, iPads,
social media and laptops. Millenials are generally well
educated and surrounded by technology such as
computers and digital media and expect instant
information on many issues including CSR (Myers and
Sadaghiani, 2010). They are also increasingly coming
into contact with social issues and needs, including the
importance of the worker as opposed to the organization
in which he or she is employed, the financial economic
crisis plaguing the world and the values and social
responsibility of their employer. Schwitzer and Lyons
(2010) explain that the millenials take into consideration
the environment and poverty as well as number of global
issues. They all want to ‘save’ the world and thus have
very high expectations of CSR and ethics in
organizations. Wendover (2012) states that millenials
believe that CSR plays a vital role in altering the lives of
Nicolaides 645
people globally as well as protecting the environment and
actively seek out employers who have a good track
record in this regard.
They are quickly becoming a force for the social good
of society and are very optimistic about the ability of
organizations to effect positive change (Cargas, 2013). In
2008, some 88% of millenials in the workplace were
seeking employers who espoused values that matched
their own and 86% would consider leaving their employer
if they were considered to be only self-seeking and had
no notion of responsibility towards other stakeholders.
The CSR stance of an organization undoubtedly attracts
millennial employees to a particular type of socially
s-at-work-dec-2011.pdf). Their social mind-set is a
significant and important factor in society and they are
very environmentally conscious (Evans, 2103). The role
of public opinion in shaping corporate behaviour is not
new but the empowerment of the customer in the new
economy is not since the IT revolution has informed
millenials and others about what organizations are doing
or failing to do.
Millennials also approve of corporate social
responsibility and often allude to sustainability and
conservation and they also tend to actively look for
brands that they consider to be morally socially
responsible and that are acting responsibly. Millenials
feel obligated to defend their neighbours and take
responsibility for their actions and many believe that
companies have a responsibility to them, society, and the
global community and should be giving back some of
what they earn(Ibid). Organizations should also be
transparent in their reporting and adopt sustainable
business practices. Money is important to Millennials but
they do not consider money to be the only source of
contentment. As in the case of Generation X workers,
they feel compensated by work arrangements that offer
them greater flexibility and th prospect of using the latest
technology (Martin, 2005). They also tend to investigate
brands and especially the contribution they make with
regard to CSR strategies and are not easily duped by
organizations that offer only facades of CSR activity.
Social media sites are extensively used to discuss CSR
activities of organizations so that millenials are well
informed. Millenial employees demand that their
company be socially responsible and they as consumers
also tend expect better business practices in terms of
CSR since this is a moral imperative. It encourages
accountability and also encourages employees who
become more committed when they are employed in
organizations that are perceived to be socially
responsible (Greening and Turban, 2000). CSR also
creates competitive invulnerability and makes an
organization more sustainable in the long term so that
while committing to social actions this may in fact forestall
legislation and allow organizations to retain more
independence from government (Moon and Vogel, 2008).
The distinct attributes and beliefs of millenials are
likely to affect the development of workplace relationships
with both team and organizational members from other
generations such as baby boomers, and these have also
become crucial issues (Gursoy et al., 2008) There is thus
the contention that certain characteristics of the
Millennials’ value system could actually work in their
favour, as well as in their employers’ favour, especially
during economic slumps (George, 2008). As society's
perception of corporate social responsibility undergoes a
phase of fundamental change a wide range of socioeconomic, demographic, technological and globalisation
related forces influence the changing expectations of
concerning the CSR initiatives
Why CSR?
There is a growing global realization that "problems are
increasingly global and demand solutions that
presuppose a framework of values acceptable
everywhere" (Kidder and Cleveland, 1994). Core values,
including: truthfulness; fairness; freedom; justice, a sense
of community; tolerance; responsibility; and respect for
life have thus been promoted globally (ibid). The
prevalence of unethical behaviour in a number of local
and international organizations illustrates the critical
importance of ethics and the promotion of CSR.Porter
and Kramer (2011) state that by supporting initiatives to
address societal issues, organizations could increase the
levels of company productivity, and this would have a
positive spin-off in that profitability and share value could
Core target groups are aggressively challenging
corporate behaviour and there is a marked increase in
corporate double standards and hypocritical behaviour
being exposed. This has led to a series of international
principles being devised regarding the ethical
responsibilities of organizations to society namely, the
Caux Round Table (CRT) Principles of Business. These
are sanctioned by the vast majority of the world's nations
(Schwartz and Gibb, 1999).Sustainable development
(SD) a working definition of which was created in 1987
with the publication of ‘Our Common Future’, also known
as the “Brundtland Report” of the World Commission on
Environment and Development, is now also aligned to
CSR. The definition of SD put forward states:
“Development as the means to satisfy the needs of
present generations without compromising the resources
of future generations”. Sustainability also includes a
commitment to the needs of the poor and an
unambiguous recognition of the physical limitations of
our planet, and does not simply focus on economic and
646 Educ. Res.
social development. Such globally accepted and
recognised values have led to the establishing of codified
global corporate codes of conduct based primarily on
grounded on inter-alia the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the European
Convention on Human Rights (1950); the Helsinki Final
Act (1975); the OECD Guidelines for Multinational
Enterprises (1976); the International Labour Office
Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (1977); and
the United Nations Code of Conduct on Transnational
Corporations (1972). These consider a number of
business areas including employee practices and
policies, basic human rights and fundamental freedoms,
consumer protection, environmental protection, and
political involvements (Ferrell and Fraedrich, 1997).
Consequently many large and multinational organizations
conduct projects for social involvement as a part of their
usual business endeavours and such contribution
frequently exceeds the specifications of South Africa’s
“Black Economic Empowerment” (BEE). CSR initiatives
are thus strategically planned by some organizations, and
they also measure their progress, and publish the
outcomes of their CSR initiatives to entice customers and
increase their competitive advantage.
Whereas European CSR-practices are conducted with
‘people, profit and planet’ in mind, combined with a multistakeholder dialogue, in South Africa CSR is
predominantly characterized by notions of philanthropy
and enhanced corporate branding with sustainability in
mind.CSR is thus essentially viewed as an organizations
contribution to sustainable development and includes
aspects such as how an organization addresses its
Although CSR is a series of voluntary actions that an
organization can take, over and above compliance
with minimum legal requirements, it is critical to address
not only its own strategic interests but also the interests
of society in general. It is evident from practices observed
in the market place that organizations have adopted a
wide range of stances when it comes to CSR. These tend
to range from a low to high degree of socially responsible
organizational practices (Barney and Griffin, 1992). In
South Africa, since the creation of the new Constitution in
1994 CSR programs developed from mainly philanthropic
programs into mainly strategic investment and so
many actions on the part of organizations are directed
towards the social uplifting of the nation in general. Many
organizations thus do consider their social and
environmental impacts and how they may make a
positive contribution in this regard. Such initiatives in fact
began as early as 1976 when the“Urban Foundation,”
(National Business Initiative, NBI) fixed as its primary
objective the improvement of the quality of life of
the black communities languishing under the scourge
of Apartheid. The advent of the ‘rainbow nation’ in
1994 ushered in much required political changes
and huge efforts were made to balance out the unequal
Empowerment Act” (BEE) of 2003, was passed by the
South African government and stipulates the
development of especially the historically-disadvantaged
groups in the population as those in need of support. A
number of “Corporate Social Investment” guidelines of
the later Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment
(BBBEE) back the development of CSR programs.
Organizational inputs
Society has expectations that organizations, irrespective
of whether they are small, micro, medium or large will be
responsible corporate citizens and actively seek to assist
the government to address a myriad of societal concern
that plague South Africa inter-alia poverty alleviation,
security, environmental protection and conservation,
education and health. CSR paces many expectations on
organizations including economic, ethical, philanthropic
and legal expectations. Many South Africa organizations
seemingly have had a positive reception of CSR. In fact
many view it as having benefits for them directly such
gaining shareholder and other stakeholder approval
whilst also obtaining greater appeal as an employer of
choice for especially the millenials coming into the
workforce in large numbers. By investing in CSR initiative
many companies find it easier to socially integrate into
the community in which they are involved. However, not
all CSR is conducted voluntarily(German Embassy,
Pretoria /Stef Coetzee, 2012).Some organizations feel
that they are obliged by BBBEE to comply, to an extent
and do not always happily seek to assist to address the
economic and social inequalities of all their stakeholders
even in a small way. For example, they simply make
small donations to welfare organizations and thus play a
minor philanthropic role. Other smaller organizations
have no social responsibility interest and many flout
BBBEE initiatives.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), which
establishes standards in the CSR segment for all
exchange-noted companies promotes CSR activities in
organizations operating in South Africa. The “JSE
Socially Responsible Investment Index," was generated
borrowing from the FTSE4Good index and suitably
modified to suit the South African scenario. The Socially
Responsible Investment (SRI) Index
companies’ policies, performance and reporting in
relation to the three pillars of the triple bottom line
(environmental, economic and social sustainability), as
well as corporate governance practices in organizations
( The JSE established Criteria with which it
measures the triple-bottom-line performance of
companies listed in the FTSE/JSE All Share Index. The
Nicolaides 647
purpose is to compile an Index which includes those
companies that pass the Criteria requirements. The SRI
Index also offers an ambitious sustainability benchmark
sustainability principles into their everyday business
practices. This also serves as a tool for investors to
evaluate organizations on a much more extensive basis.
Reviews take place annually during the second half of
each year, with results usually announced at the end of
November each year.
CSR along with ethical and moral issues, have an
important role to play in controlling the threats of
unrestrained development, promoting conservation and
sustainability and especially meeting the needs of the
millennial generation. It is noteworthy that the findings of
research conducted by the UK’s Institute of Business
Ethics, in which a number of companies in the FTSE 250
were analyzed, provided overwhelming support for the
notion that organizations which are dedicated to ethical
behaviour achieve enhanced financial growth over the
long term when compared to those that are deficient as
such in CSR initiatives and which neglect their societal
incorporate CSR initiatives into their everyday practice
(Weaver, G. et al, 1999).
South African companies do not do so well in CSR
initiatives and very few have analyzed had CSR
embedded in their corporate strategy. There are of
course many that respond to stakeholders’ social and
environmental apprehensions. Many more should be
publishing CSR reports and inculcating positive notions
about CSR while formally promoting CSR practices. A
number of organizations have made concerted efforts
addressed CSR and business ethics in a variety of ways.
Some have introduced compliance programs, developed
codes of conduct including CSR issues and increased the
level of corporate governance. Ethical compliance officer
courses are on the rise, as a number of organizations
seek to become more involved in CSR. It is apparent that
many captains of industry and other business leaders
increasingly recognise that their organizations future
success to a large extent depends on how well they
address the challenge of supporting society.
However, greater consideration should also be paid
to the employees and the working environment and the
main focus should be on the promotion of the sustainable
character of CSR practices in South Africa. An integrated
CSR strategy that is dissimilar to philanthropy is urgently
required and an efficient connection between CSR and
BBBEE needs to be made. In all these initiatives their
must be greater partnership between the public and
private sectors and organizations should not only comply
to the bare minimum of legal CSR requirements but in
fact voluntarily move ahead of these by for example,
supporting initiatives to construct homes for the poor and
.thwarting corruption by transparent reporting.
The response of many organizations has been
positive so that “In 2003, companies spent 2.35 billion
RAND (approximately 193.4 million EUR) for social
programs in South Africa. Companies’ expenditures in
the CSR sector thus correspond to approximately half of
what international donors gave for comparable activities,
however only 1% of the total that the state invests in
social projects each year. The trend indicates increasing
expenditures in the CSR sector” (German Embassy,
Pretoria /Stef Coetzee, (2012). There are however many
organizations that do not embrace CSR and although
operating within the legal framework of the country, are
otherwise socially obstructive and apparently devoid of
moral obligation. The stakeholder theory is not important
to them and all that matter is the “bottom-line”.
The World Business Council for Sustainable
responsibility is 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 of the local
community and society at large." (Watts and Holme,
2000).CSR or ‘Sustainability’ is thus not simply obeying
the law and it is also not philanthropy. Organizations
should be regarded as partners with all the stakeholders
in their communities and they should not merely be
supporting shareholder interests. CSR is tacitly viewed in
terms of corporate responsibility, but with a larger stress
on the obligations an organization towards the
community. Philanthropy and environmental conservation
are important aspects and the community allows
business to operate within legal and moral frameworks
and whilst making a profit is critical, stakeholders and the
needs of society must be considered as well
(Fritsch,2008). There are of course numerous benefits to
the adoption of CSR policies by organizations such as
greater competitiveness, much enhanced reputation and
of course risk management.
Societal and state expectations
In South Africa there is an expectation on the part of
society that organizations become socially immersed
while for example benevolently supporting education or
health. Political directives necessitate greater CSR
initiatives are put in place and yet CSR is barely in the
news and it seems that only the unions have some input
as they work with organizations to promote CSR
initiatives. Replies obtained from a 2005 survey by
Trialogue in excess of 100 stock exchange-noted
companies in South Africa, 73.5% of those surveyed said
that they take corporate citizenship “very seriously,”
24.5% stated that they take it “seriously” (German
Embassy, Pretoria /Stef Coetzee, (2012). The business
world cannot remain in its ‘silo’ as the government battles
to overcome the myriad of challenges that face the state
648 Educ. Res.
especially poverty alleviation, health and education
provision. Organizations have to become partners of the
state. The government’s BBBEE scorecard necessitates
that organizations guarantee previously excluded social
groups preferred status when it comes to jobs access to
jobs, especially managerial positions, and professional
training actions. Organizations should align their personal
values and societal concerns with their investment
decisions in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
initiatives. This will allow consideration of the
shareholders financial needs and an investment’s impact
on society in general. In this way, they can earn money
while simultaneously build a better future for the majority
of South Africans and not only an eclectic group. The
investment areas should include social, environmental as
well as ethical criteria. Organizations could also pair with
others to manage CSR policy and determine spending
priorities within distinct strategic perspectives and thereby
coordinate resources and their actions. Major
stakeholders should be incorporated in the efforts to
establish, implement and finally evaluate CSR initiatives.
When a CSR projects is identified, funding should be
adequate and integrated initiatives must be in place to
benefit the targeted community/ies.
It is an expectation of society that organizations in
South Africa will at the very least fulfill the stipulations of
"Black Economic Empowerment" in terms of legislation.
The philanthropic stance adopted by many organizations
needs to become a comprehensive concept
encompassing social, economic, legal and ecological
development. Only when organizations become serious
about CSR will a macro-economic policy environment be
ensured that is also stable. Organizations thus have
many challenges and opportunities to work for the
common good.
National laws and international guiding principles of
South Africa corporate law does not explicitly compel
businesses to engage in CSR initiatives but it has
internationally celebrated procedures put into practice to
guarantee that organizations are receptive to CSR as an
ethical and moral obligation. South Africa increasingly
considers CSR initiatives as being important and has
developed and CSR-related policies and laws in the last
couple of years. These formal laws represent a
consensus on ethical standards and law is thus a basis
for ethical discussion. It is the responsibility of
organizations to abide by the laws of the country.
and corporate accountability are
emphasized far more than previously so that South Africa
now has a number of laws which are pertinent to CSR
and which have relevance to ILO regulations and
standards as well as international human rights treaties
and environmental protection accords. The South African
government regulates the
practice of CSR to a great degree and an emphasis is
placed on entrenching CSR in the business core to
acquire enhanced sustainability.
Despite this, greater focus on operating the core
business in a socially responsible way, which is
complemented by an investment in communities for
relatively good business reasons, is in need of
acceleration. Many organizations are currently evaluated
by consumers, especially the millenials, based on their
ethics and CSR initiatives, brand, as well as financial
consideration. Consequently, they deem it prudent to
consider all stakeholders including any individual or
group that is able to influence or is influenced by the
shareholders.CSR is for some organizations a vehicle
with which they seek to improve a dwindling reputation
and use it to improve their image in society. Where there
is effective auditing and reporting on CSR initiatives, this
is deemed to exhibit superior business citizenship on the
part of an organization.
While organizations have economic responsibilities to
their shareholders, and ethical responsibilities in terms of
doing what is right and often involve themselves in
philanthropic acts, they also have a legal responsibilities
to satisfy when seeking to be socially responsible. There
are thus a number of laws in place which apply to CSR
and which must be adhered to. For the sake of clarity,
some of these will be briefly explained. The South African
Companies Act 61 of 1973 does not obligate
organizations to participate in CSR initiatives. However
the National Policy Document and the King II and King III
reports clearly address the need and relevance of
organizations to acknowledge all stakeholders in
whatever they undertake. The King Committee on
Corporate Governance issued three reports between
1994 and 2010. The King I Report 1994 or King I, was
designed specifically to promote corporate governance
and suggested suitable guidelines for standards for
boards of directors of companies listed on the Stock
Exchange, financial institutions and various public
enterprises. This report also highlighted the need for
organizations to display socially responsible behaviour in
the communities in which they operate. The King II report
on Corporate Governance was available in 2002 and
succinctly documented and detailed good corporate
governance facets that any organization implementing
the report should concentrate on, namely discipline,
independence, accountability and responsibility (Institute
of Directors in Southern Africa, 2009).King III (2010) was
revised version of the national Code of and Report on
Governance Principles.
King III highlighted sustainability and risk concerns as
well the necessity of stakeholder consideration. Ethics,
Nicolaides 649
corporate governance as well as CSR, inter - alia, were
detailed aspects of the report. Many organizations are
adhering to the King III report but there are some which
are not yet adequately involved on CSR. In order to be
listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange,
organizations are required to comply with the three King
Reports. The organizations are obligated to report on an
annual basis on the nature and extent of their social,
transformation, ethical, safety, health, and environmental
management policies and practices. Information is also
required from them concerning potential and future CSR
initiatives. Those organizations which do not invest in
CSR initiatives need to elucidate on the absence of what
is deemed to be ethically and morally correct. As early
as 1993, the Occupational Health and Safety Act No 85
(1993) /Mine Health and Safety Act No. 29 (1996) were
effected to provide greater health and safety
management in the workplace and decrease the number
of accidents and deaths in mining activity. These acts
were followed by the Labour Relations Act No. 66 (1995)
and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act No. 75
(1997). These laws stipulate the basic working conditions
for employees and also encourage the signing of
collective labour agreements. South Africa has a very
liberal constitution (1996) that includes a comprehensive
exposition of both citizens’ and human rights.
The Employment Equity Act No. 55 (1998) prohibits
the inequitable treatment of employees in the workplace
and stipulates including special programs for particular
groups such as blacks, women, and disabled people.
This was followed by the Skills Development Act No. 97
(1998) which states that companies must pay a certain
percentage of their expenditures for salaries and wages
to the National Skill Fund Training which provides finance
for skill development measures and programs. The
conservation related act of interest is the
National Environmental Management Act No. 107
(1998) which promotes sustainability as well as long-term
development, access to natural resources such as for
example, water. It also promotes the participation of the
public in decision-making in the environmental sphere. It
is this act which emphasizes that organizations can be
held liable for environmental degradation and damage.
The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair
Discrimination Act No. 4 (2000) targeted areas including
inequitable treatment, equality and discrimination in all
societal areas. In terms of the Mineral and Petroleum
Resources Development Act No. 28 (2002) all mining
rights reside with the state. Organizations need to apply
for licenses to operate and must stick to the BEE
specifications as a favoured modus operandi. They may
also be made liable for any form of environmental
degradation or damage.
The National Black Economic Empowerment Act No.
53 (2003) launched the national basic conditions for
the promotion of black economic empowerment. The
National Black Economic Empowerment Act (BEE)
places an obligation on South African-based companies
to reflect on how what they do affects all stakeholders in
terms of the eradication of historical social and economic
inequalities that exist in society. If an organization does
not comply with BEE requirements, they may find it
increasingly difficult to operate in South Africa. BEE thus
seeks to redress racial imbalances and promote socioeconomic development in an equitable and fair manner.
Compliance with the BEE Actor its General Code of
Conduct is not obligatory but rather morally and ethically
right. A series of semi-obligatory and voluntary measures
are incorporated that are implemented by the Ministry of
Trade and Industry (DTI). The DTI sets the standards,
provides the guidelines for the implementation of CSR,
and specifies that organizations must concentrate on
BEE initiatives. Those which execute BEE criteria can be
involved in public tenders, and obtain other benefits.
Organizations can of course elect not to comply with
the BEE Act without facing any legal consequence.
Neither do they require a BEE plan in which the business'
BEE strategy is described. The BEE framework does not
thereby generate any mandatory compliance for the
private sector. Consequently the latter is left with a costbenefit analysis where the cost of non-compliance is
weighed up against the cost of complying with BEE. By
non-complying an organization could face the prospect of
losing business since they would have a lower BEE
recognition level which could deter other businesses from
dealing with them-in a sense ostracising them (Dekker
and Esser, 2008). The New Companies Act 71 was
ratified in 2008, and it fundamentally modernised the
corporate legal background of South Africa. The act aims
to restate the concept of organizations as a means of
achieving economic and social benefits for previously
disadvantaged groups.
established accepted guides of best practices in CSR in
South Africa. These focused on social, environmental
and economic apprehensions. The King reports’ are also
not obligatory, but they do however adopt an approach
which obliges organizations to comply with notions of
CSR or explain why these guidelines may be missing
from their strategies (
The reform process of the company law has been
clearly bolstered by the enactment of the new Companies
Act, which came into effect on 1 May 201. This has
substantially altered the course of corporate law. Public
discontent with lack of adequate CSR initiatives is
addressed more directly through section 72 of the Act
which has endeavoured to certify that CSR permeates
organizational governance structures. It empowers the
Minister of Trade and Industry to recommend through the
use of regulations that an organization which is described
in terms of its annual turnover, number of employees as
650 Educ. Res.
well as the nature and extent of their activities must
ensure that social and ethics committees are in place
(Cassim, 2008).
In terms of the laws and reports stated above and
other laws there is a need to comply with all pertinent
regulations since a failure to do so will highlight that any
offending organization is devoid of a moral compass and
lacks suitable governance mechanisms and policies. It is
evident that multinational corporations are more active in
CSR initiatives, and this ‘compliance’ is now also
permeating down to small, medium and micro enterprises
across a variety of sectors. Where social programs are in
operation, the organizations involved tend to spotlight
what they are doing externally, and so increase
awareness of the activities in such a way as to make
them a marketing exercise aimed at bolstering their
image in the marketplace and gaining the favour of
government. Many organizations are below average
when it comes to fulfilling their responsibilities to society.
Research demonstrates that there is a gap between the
existence of company ethics and CSR policies and the
entrenching of its substance in the ‘blood stream’ of an
organization (More & Webley, 2003). There is an
enduring requirement for dependable indicators to
measure the performance of organizationsin the CSR
areas of a business and to link these to business
success. Nonetheless notions such as integrity and
fairness are customarily only measurable using
secondary indicators (ibid).
Two examples of positive CSR in South Africa
Sony South Africa has an interesting and commendable
Corporate Social Investment (CSI) program which they
have termed the Sony C.U.P - standing for ‘Community
Upliftment Program’. This program expects that 12 main
sustainable projects to be conducted in a year, targeting
the upliftment of a chosen community through six main
areas for involvement namely arts and culture, health,
science and technology, education, sport and the
Sony’s primary mission is to foster and develop a
spirit of community participation in all Sony S.A
employees - including permanent employees and
contractors. The expected results are that a remarkable
impact will be made to the community and a model CSR
program will be developed from which other
organizations can learn. All Sony S.A Employees are
required to participate in a minimum of two projects
during the course of the year. This forms part of official
company policy that will hopefully contribute towards
making C.S.R involvement a culture in Sony S.A - a
company that is already a world leader in electronic
products. Their chose community includes 2 schools in
Alexandra - Emfundisweni Primary and Minerva High
School. The township of Alexandra was chosen due to its
proximity to the Sony S.A head office located in Midrand.
Weekly liaison is conducted with the school and the
SAB Miller is South Africa’s leading producer and
distributor of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. They
operate seven breweries and 40 depots in South Africa
with annual sales exceeding 25-billion litres. SAB Miller
also has a soft drinks division named Amalgamated
Beverage Industries (ABI), one of the largest producers
and distributors of Coca-Cola brands in the southern
hemisphere. In 2009, SAB tabled its broad-based black
economic empowerment transaction (BBBEE), SAB
Zenzele, which was then valued at R7.3-billion. A total of
8.45percent of the company’s shares has thus been
placed under black ownership. It also has a number of
CSR programs and actively invests in community
partnerships and other socio-economic and enterprise
development initiatives to help create a stronger South
Africa. They have established 10 sustainable
development priorities (including communities, HIV/AIDS,
human rights, waste, packaging, responsible drinking,
water, energy and carbon, enterprise development and,
transparency end ethics) that pay special attention to
and intermittently monitor. As a result of such initiatives
they have made critical improvements in communities as
well as transparency and ethics over the last few years.
They are also promoting responsible drinking and,
sustainable energy and carbon emissions concepts (SAB
Results of ineffective CSR
Many companies unlike Sony and SAB Miller do however
try to depict themselves as beingsocially responsible as
well as sustainable. What they say about their CSR
initiatives is scant confirmation of what they actually do
and while mining houses do place a measure of
emphasis on CSR initiatives and support of communities,
huge catastrophes such as that at Marikana clearly
emphasize that many employees remain very unhappy
with initiatives that are taken or not taken to support
communities. What is required is behavioural change in
The Bench Marks Foundation is a non-profit, faithbased organization owned by the churches in South
Africa and is a unique organization in the area of
corporate social responsibility (CSR). It monitors
corporate performance against an international
measuring instrument, the Principles for Global Corporate
Responsibility; Bench Marks for Measuring Business
Performance. In 2007, it published a report on the
socioeconomic conditions of mine workers and their
Nicolaides 651
families. It concluded that workers across South Africa
are still exploited and many suffer immense hardships.
The report exposed that the mines in the Rustenburg
mining belt are poisoning the land and the waters through
unchecked polluting and doing very little about cleaning
up their mess. Furthermore, toxic sulphur-dioxide leaks
spill into the water sources that supply the communities.
People are obliged to drink and wash from such water
Mines are permitted to emit an enormous 18 tonnes
of Co2 from each company into the air, forcing
surrounding communities to breathe in a contaminated
mixture of mercury loaded emissions and dust particles.
These additions to the air are the source of various
cancers and wide-ranging respiratory disease. Many toxic
slime dams are also situated in close proximity to various
settlements, and this also impacts negatively on the
health of the inhabitants. It is understandable that many
employees are less than satisfied with their employers
due the latter’s lack of sensitivity to societal needs and
wants (
Reality contradicts what some mining companies are
proclaiming to their stakeholders in terms of what they
are doing to promote CSR in the communities in which
they operate. The naked truth is, that very little is
ploughed back into communities and as such human
rights are often violated. A barrage of social investment
advertorials and green washing campaigns, distort the
fact that people are viewed as expendable to
organizations which pursue only huge profits.In many
ways South Africa’s archetypal model of corporate law,
as it affects CSR initiatives has led directly to a number
of noteworthy social initiatives by the private sector but
much more needs to be done. There is no doubt that
CSR initiatives must be encapsulated in organizational
policies (Galbreath, 2009). It is vital to organizational
stability that the trust of society in what they be restored.
When considering the huge social disparities and the
obvious need to empower disadvantaged communities,
the mining and other sectors of industry are well placed
to assist government address societal needs because if
nothing else, it makes sound business sense. From a
conceptual perspective, good governance is evident
when there is participation, accountability, equity, rule of
law, effectiveness and transparency (UNDP, 1997).CSR
has to an extent made a difference in the lives of many
South Africans, although much still remains to be done.
The expectations of all stakeholders, consumers,
employees, investors and the general public and
especially the millennial generation, with regard to CSR
will in all probability intensify. Hopefully, more
organizations will see the link between a good reputation
and good sales and attach more importance to real CSR
initiatives in the communities in which they operate. An
increasing number of organizations have incorporated
ethical guidelines into their operating policies, and CSR
provisions are included. There are also CSR-related tools
including CSR guidelines and checklists, and there is
thus no justification for not using them.
CSR strategies and social media messages to
especially millenials
In a world in which organizations seek to enhance their
bottom-line, there is often a discrepancy between a CSR
policy and what an organization actually does and this
makes them less likely to be sustainable operations.
Social media allows an organization or a brand a great
opportunity to educate both existing and potential
customers while it has opportunities online to engage
with the stakeholders. Millenials will not hesitate to post a
complaint on platforms such as Facebook or tweet about
some or other aspect of service or expectation and they
will not hesitate to reflect negatively on organizational
reputation issues. In this environment, the millenials call
on companies to exhibit genuine CSR and they and civil
society in general hold organizations accountable for
especially what they fail to do. Consequently,
organizations should be more visible in their CSR
A number of objective indicators should be used to
measure the CSR activities that are reported on by
organizations. There are thus some basic questions that
organizations should respond to in public and these could
inter-alia include the following:
1. Is there an ethics or compliance officer in place or is it
the CEOs role to monitor and implement CSR?
2. Does the organization have a Code of Conduct/Ethics
which includes CSR?
3. Does CSR comprise a core principle of the
organizations objectives?
4. Is there a CSR or sustainability report?
5. Is there an organizational risk assessment of human
rights issues?
6. Do shareholders show interest in CSR or are they
only interested in profits?
7. Are shareholders interested in the composition of the
board of directors in terms of diversity, compensation,
environmental policies and sustainability?
8. When CSR is implemented is there sufficient
communication of the results thereof in the media and in
the organization?
9. Is there partnering with government initiatives to uplift
10. Is there due diligence in certain cases where the
government may be part of a problem that is faced?
11. Is ethics integrated into the CSR investment decision
12. Does the organization use a balanced scorecard
methodology which is basically a shortlist of critical CSR
indicators that an organization should be considering?
652 Educ. Res.
13. Is there long-term value creation from CSR
14. Does the organization act in a responsible manner
so as to maintain its social licence to operate?
14. Does the organization consider the governmental
regulations and international instruments and national
instruments such as the Guidance on Social
Responsibility or the King Reports on Governance?
15. Is there a strong cultures and ethos of CSR
pervading the organization?
16. Are employees proud to be employed in the
Does the organization seek to form partnerships
with non-profit organizations or with governmental
agencies so as to expand the reach of its CSR activities?
18. Are their terms of reference for the ethics committee
if one exists does it establish policies and standards
based on the nationally and internally recognised
instruments dealing with CSR?
19. Does the ethics committee reassess CSR issues
which could potentially impinge on the organization?
20. Have ethics or compliance officers and their
programs fallen short of respecting the ‘spirit of the law’ in
favour of ‘the letter of the law’?
Where there are compliance/ethics officers, employees
must be aware of this as it is the compliance/ethics officer
who manages the organizations ethics policies. They also
ensure that employees are knowledgeable of the
organizations values and ethical standards which are
entrenched in a code-of-ethics. Where violations of the
code –of– ethics exist, transgressors must be held
accountable irrespective of rank. The current
inappropriate CSR initiatives of many organizations must
be rooted out and criteria should be developed for
assessing if targets for CSR initiatives have been met
within the time frames that organizations set.
A number of prominent conclusions may be drawn from
the analysis of literature of CSR and the millenials that
was conducted. The growing influence of human rights
on CSR is a momentous development and it is especially
important for large international organizations to be
cognisant of. Such organizations need to be encouraged
to not only generate economic growth but also societal
development (Rossouw, 2005). Organizations should
motivate their CSR initiatives publicly and provide sound
reasons for what they propose to do, since this will
enhance their reputations and gratify their stakeholders.
Consequently, their CSR must be based on coordinated
and coherent social responsibility ideas because this will
enable them to mobilise support from others and ensure
that they meet the practical requirements of their CSR
drives. Clearly, an organization’s CSR policy and
mechanism to use finances for the general good are
crucial to its success. It is a huge incentive for any
organization irrespective of size, to assist previously
participants in the South African economy. In any event,
CSR initiatives will also allow them to circumvent
negative ratings that could prevent them from operating
in South Africa.
Organizations should set benchmarks for others to
follow and while South Africa is heading in the right
direction, greater support for effective CSR reforms is
needed. Lofty CSR standards should be applicable from
the very outset for organizations conducting business in
South Africa. Challenges and opportunities abound but it
is incumbent on the government, organizations and their
various stakeholders to take a further lead and give great
impetus to CSR. The millennial generation is closely
monitoring what transpires in the realm of CSR and this is
important for organizations to internalise. Organizations
should be asking a collective question: What can we
achieve together for the betterment of society?
The very notion that organizations should exercise
CSR as an entirely voluntary effort will increasingly be
challenged as millenials promote their ideas on social
media platforms. Respecting human rights must become
a standard expectation of all organizations. While it is
conceivable that certain areas of CSR will remain
voluntary, many should be regulated. It is imperative that
good governance remain a critical factor for move
forward with CSR. Government must carefully scrutinize
its role as a legislator and regulator. It should also should
also serve as the protector of basic human rights and
notify organizations of its role, their roles and the moral
and ethical expectations for CSR initiatives. It is the
economic duty of a business to generate goods and
provide services that are affordable for customers while
simultaneously satisfying its responsibility towards
shareholders and other stakeholders. Given this an
organization has legal as well social responsibilities.
The legal obligation is to conform to the laws and
regulations of the land while the social dimension has a
number of areas of operation, including how an
organization shares in the economy, and how it relate to
competitors, shareholders, employees, consumers, the
community in which it functions and how it treats the
environment. Within these dimensions lies an ethical and
moral duty to do the right thing and act philanthropically
but also going beyond this by incorporating CSR
initiatives as part and parcel of operating strategy since
CSR will increasingly become a competitive factor for
every organization (Utting, 2003). Exercising CSR will
thus soon be mandatory and not simply be viewed as an
“add-on” activity in which only prosperous organizations
engage, reinforcing the local as well as international CSR
frameworks as a part and parcel of the emerging global
Nicolaides 653
standard. It is already a fact that some organizations are
now legally required to include a social and ethics
committee in their governance structures and this
represents a welcome shift towards institutionalising and
legitimising CSR initiatives. Mining houses in particular
have a moral obligation to improve access to health care
and education for their employees as well as for
communities around their mining activities, while
addressing environmental conservation issues. Marikana
for example, emphasized that CSR needs to move from
being a charitable essential to being a legal requirement
that makes it obligatory for all organizations to contribute
to the development of South Africa.
Self –regulation on CSR would be a utopia for many
organizations but they need to re-assess their CSR
stances. Capitalism must be made far more responsive to
the huge needs in society. There is also business case
for organizations to take careful note of CSR, business
ethics, reputation and corporate governance. If
organizations fail to heed the demands of society they will
suffer the consequences. Organizations have a great
responsibility to each of their stakeholders and should
imbue their employees with the tools to conduct business
responsibly. The wide range of social needs in South
Africa in areas including inter-alia education, health care
(HIV/AIDS), empowerment and entrepreneurship present
a wide gamut for organizations to initiate critical CSR
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