The article under discussion is titled “When urgency matters on non-discretionary corporate social responsibility”. The author of the article is Miguel Alzola and the article was published in the human systems management journal in 2008.
According to Alzola, the concept of corporate social responsibility is generally used to refer to the relationship between businesses and their environment.
Corporations should be morally accountable beyond legal obligations; their moral accountability and legal obligation should not be perceived as an act of charity but as a matter of duty.
Alzala argues that all businesses operate in social, political, economic and natural environments. The concept, therefore, takes into account how businesses interact with these environments, either positively or negatively.
According to him, the topic of corporate social responsibility can be broken down into four main areas of obligation namely the ethical, economic, philanthropic and legal obligations for corporates (Aras & Crowther, 2010).
The ethical obligation for corporates comprises the requirements or expectations of any business by the society.
Such requirements or expectations include things like doing what is just, fair and right, using the law as the basis of organizational behaviour and avoidance of questionable practices (Aras & Crowther, 2010).
The economic obligation comprises taking care of the interests of the shareholders, investors and customers, profit maximization, the minimization of the costs in undertaking the business and the formulation and implementation of strategic policies which propel business forward (Aras & Crowther, 2010).
The legal obligation comprises the respect and compliance of the business to laws such as environmental laws, consumer laws, laws which protect employees as well as the respect of agreements between a business and its clients or employees (Aras & Crowther, 2010).
Finally, the philanthropic obligation entails giving back to the society by the business. Businesses may do this in a variety of ways like establishing or supporting programs which directly benefit the society like health, education and cohesion programs as well as programs which boost harmonious coexistence of people from diverse cultural backgrounds (Aras & Crowther, 2010).
Alzola argues that corporates have a moral obligation to undertake corporate social responsibility. To support his argument, he uses what he calls four justification principles, namely ability, membership, contribution and fair play.
The principle of membership has to do with a person’s duty to take care of those who live in the same geographical area with him or her. With this principle, corporates are treated as individuals.
According to Alzala, every member of a community has an obligation over the other members of the community because no individual can exist alone.
If an individual participates in community work, it should not be seen as charity work because the same individual benefits from the products of that particular work for the simple reason that he or she lives within that community.
The same applies to corporates. The principle, therefore, obligates corporates to do what the people in their surrounding community do (Alzola, 2008).
The principle of ability has to do with someone being obliged to help by a virtue of having the ability to help. The principle takes into account what Alzole calls comparable costs.
If for example a person is faced with the threat of death due to lack of medication, then a billionaire who is aware of the same has a moral obligation to help the person with money for medication.
The reason is that the cost of the medicine is not in any way comparable to the amount of money the billionaire has.
Similarly, corporates earn comparatively huge income than individuals and therefore, they are presumed to have the ability to help those who are faced with various challenges or problems.
This help should not be mistaken for charity because what the corporates donate to assist is not in any way comparable with the amount of income which they earn (Alzola, 2008).
The principle of contribution has to do with compensating people who suffer as a result of mistakes of corporates. If for example, a corporation is responsible for oil spill, it has the moral obligation of compensating all those affected by the oil spill.
The same corporation is legally bound to compensate the victims up to a point where there lives return to normal (Alzola, 2008).
Finally, the principle of fair play has to do with prevention of problems and solving the problems if they occur. Corporates have the responsibility of ensuring that they have preventive measures to all manner of disasters.
They should comply with all rules and regulations which govern their operations. In case a disaster happens, the corporates have the obligation of ensuring that all those affected are assisted to come out of the problem (Alzola, 2008).
According to the article, therefore, corporates should be both morally and legally accountable for their actions because they do not exist in a vacuum but rather exist in human societies which comprise the social, natural and economic environments.
What I have learned from the article is that corporate social responsibility is not a matter of charity as many people tent to perceive it but it is rather a matter of moral and legal accountability for corporates.
Corporates must therefore at all times ensure that they coexist well with their surrounding communities and perform their duties to the communities without the notion of charity work.
Alzola, M 2008, ‘When urgency matters, on non-discretionary corporate social responsibility’, Human Systems Management vol 27. pp.273–282.
Aras, G & Crowther, D 2010, A handbook of corporate governance and social responsibility Corporate social responsibility series, Gower Publishing Ltd, Farnham GU9 7PT.