08-0063 Tuason, Mara Alessandra I. Reflection paper on the “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate’” According to Benedict XVI, in his encyclical, “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is seen as a natural ethical responsibility, which does not come from abstract principles, nor is limited to management skills; which derives from the objective or purpose of the company and its role in society. Which is based in justice and charity; is voluntary; focuses on the human person; is not identified with social action or philanthropy; and which is very demanding for those leaders who wish to put it into practice. Based on my understanding of the Pope’s stand on CSR, CSR policies function as intrinsic means where firms are able to ensure their conformity to the ethical standards and moral norms of the society. However, more than the abstract principles, CSR transcends such into practical application wherein the focus of firms from profit would be somehow shifted to the human person per se. With that, CSR aims to make and encourage a positive impact outside the firms through social responsibility-related activities on the environment and the community –which includes the consumers, employees, and its stakeholders.
Such activities are fruits of the firms’ initiatives based on justice and charity, given that the firms have this sense of responsibility to contribute towards development and to promote the common good. To have a better grasp of the encyclical passage earlier, let us use the four different CSR angles (Argandona, 2010) in dismantling its key points to have a clearer definition of CSR. According to Argandona, CSR has already been approached using the Ethical perspective where “companies have a responsibility for the effects their actions have on themselves and on the environment, and this esponsibility is ethical, not legal”. CSR which is seen as a natural ethical responsibility would then be tantamount to “CSR as the whole set, or part of the set, of moral responsibilities that companies assume for all their actions and omissions, insofar as such actions and omissions have an ethical content. ” In the Pope’s encyclical, he reminds us that “locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. Thus every economic decision has a moral consequence. If people will not be discerning of their actions, judgment and decisions, then it is in this context that the Pope stated a need for a greater social responsibility on the part of the firm, an ethical responsibility to be exact. The second approach which Argandona suggests would be of the Social perspective. In this approach, “social-companies are ‘citizens’ who relate to other ‘citizens’ must respond to the expectations and demands of these stakeholders and of society. This is supported by the Pope’s CSR definition which is based in justice and charity.
CSR being justice and charity-based would mean that “a socially responsible company is one that runs on ethical lines; in other words, virtues are practiced in it, and CSR is a manifestation of that practice of virtues. ” However, one must note that “charity goes beyond justice. But it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is ‘his’… Charity [also] demands justice in recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples as it transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving”.
An example of CSR as a justice and charity-based mechanism is when its activities concern outreaches or community service fostering a sense of “fairness” and peace among the people regardless of their status in the society. Another aspect of the social perspective would be that CSR is voluntary. It is voluntary because initiatives or CSR actions should be based on “the freedom of the agent and not subject to the compulsion of law or the coercive apparatus of the State. ” Nevertheless, “voluntary does not mean optional. ” “Ethical responsibilities have the “obligatoriness” of morality. In this way, firm initiatives must abide by the moral standards of the society. Third, strategic-companies create value for their owners (and for society, as a whole), would be the Strategic perspective. Here, the Pope’s CSR definition “focus on the human person” would fit into context. The focus on the human person, taken literally, would mean that CSR is centred on the human person. Why? This is because the human person is the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is MAN, the human person in his or her integrity (CV25).
CSR must then play a subsidiary role as CSR policies will be a “form of assistance to the human person” …considering reciprocity. The concept of subsidiarity comes in where every stakeholder has a responsibility and a role to play in the developing process of the society as it strives for the common good. Another definition of the Pope which the strategic approach of Argandona would be that CSR is not to be identified with social action or philanthropy. The encyclical stresses SOLIDARITY which refers to the sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds… pening path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties (CV9). CSR is not just “mere accumulation of wealth” but “at the service of higher goods” including spiritual growth, openness to transcendence. CSR policies should then be aiming to create value for the firm owners as well as its stakeholders. With that, the firms’ objectives should have value intrinsic to these goals, aligning it with the public interest or betterment of society. In this way, there would be solidarity and mutual gratitude present among stakeholders.
Lastly, Argandona’s Instrumental approach talks about how companies must measure results and show accountability where CSR is valued for the results it achieves. This approach would be parallel to the Pope’s assertion that CSR demands committed leaders. It demands committed leaders where each person is to be “the main agent of his own success or failure” (CV17). Development is impossible without upright men and women, who are attuned to the requirements of the common good. Both professional competence and moral consistency are necessary (CV71).
Briefly speaking, CSR is not just about good intentions but a combination of skill competence as well. Basically, I think that both the Pope and Argandona defines CSR as an aid in an organization’s mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers. I strongly agree with Argandona as he asserts that “development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, ‘Caritas in Veritate’, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us.
That is why in complex times, we turn to God’s love. Development requires attention to spiritual life… reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace (CV79)”. It is in this way that CSR policies may be directed and inspired by the light of a higher grace, as men and women alike, continue to work on how to make the world a better place to live in.