Given that different people have varying opinions about corporate social responsibility (CSR), no clear-cut definition exists. Over time, the understanding of CSR has evolved leading to the adoption of different phrases and definitions. Drawing from a study by Blowfield and Murray (2011, p.7), a number of synonyms have been coined to refer to CSR including corporate social responsiveness, corporate social performance, corporate sustainability, and corporate citizenship.
Although many terms have been used to refer to corporate social responsibility, the basic principles about corporate social responsibility remain the same. Regardless of the definition adopted, corporate social responsibility has to do with demonstrating a great sense of responsibility for the benefit of the public (Horrigan 2010, p.25). Despite the existence of different views, corporate social responsibility may be regarded as a management idea that requires business enterprises to incorporate social as well as environmental issues in their day to day business undertakings.
This paper presents information about four large corporations. One of the companies is from the United Arab Emirates, one is from Europe, and one is from the United States of America. Specifically, it looks at their CSR strategies and the various activities they are involved in. The differences and similarities in the CSR strategies and actions of these corporations are also considered. Included in the discussion is a recommendation of an ideal CSR action plan for UAE based companies.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Activities of Different Companies
This section looks at different strategies and activities of Microsoft, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, and Agthia. While Microsoft and Google are located in the United States, GlaxoSmithKline is headquartered in the UK and Agthia is found in the United Arab Emirates. The various characteristics of these companies and how they are involved in corporate social responsibility are discussed as follows.
Microsoft began its operations as a little known organization with a single product with a promise to transform how computers were used (Microsoft 2014, p. 1). Gradually, the company has grown to become a leading company in the computing industry. Today, almost everyone can identify the name Microsoft. Apparently, the growth of the company has been accompanied with a desire to make a positive contribution to the public. As noted by Adhikari (2013, p.1), Microsoft recently emerged as the top company in corporate social responsibility rankings.
Through its CSR activities, Microsoft has a target of improving the lives of close to 300 million young men and women by the year 2015. To a large extent, Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility is very critical for ensuring that the company meets its objectives. In general, Microsoft creates partnership with other institutions, mostly educational and government institutions, to provide vital solutions to societal problems (Adhikari 2013, p.1).
By serving the society, the company’s management believes that it is working toward creating a better future that every person can enjoy. In most cases, the company chooses to offer some of its products and services at less than market price to make them affordable for those who can not afford the full price yet they have a desire to enjoy what Microsoft provides. In its daily undertakings, the company is also devoted to ensuring that it acts responsibly and in accordance with what is expected by the government.
Google was founded in 1995 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. Among the key services offered by the Google Company is searching. Using its robust search engine features, Google today enables millions of users scattered across the world to access information very easily. According to Google (Google n.d., p.1), philanthropy is at the center of Google’s operations. Among others, the company is actively involved in the fight against climate change, reduction of poverty, and promotion of education. Despite the challenges that Google has experienced trying to penetrate the Chinese market, the company has initiated various social activities.
GlaxoSmithKline is well known for the services it provides in the pharmaceutical industry. Its headquarters is in Brentford, London. Like other leading world class companies, GlaxoSmithKline is involved in numerous charity activities meant to benefit the public (GlaxoSmithKline 2014, p.1). The company has, for example, entered into partnership with organizations such as Save the Children in order to safeguard the lives of children. GlaxoSmithKline is also working with various partners to help address the problem of tropical diseases that have seemingly been neglected for years. In addition, the company provides a rare opportunity for research professionals to access patient data in order to conduct meaningful research activities.
Agthia is a leading food and beverage company located in the United Arab Emirates. On a daily basis, the company strives to delight its clients with high quality foods that are quite nutritious. At the bottom of the company’s operations is wholeheartedness and every individual strives to give his or her very best for the benefit of consumers. The company’s corporate social responsibility is made up of four key pillars identified as health and wellness, the environment, people and emiratization as well as food safety and security (Agthia 2013, p.1).
Apparently, Agthia sponsored a wide range of activities and provided support for various charity and welfare organizations in the United Arab Emirates. Under the health and wellness banner, the company launched a workplace wellness program meant to take care of the health of its employees. In addition, Agthia has partnered with other organizations in order to promote health and wellness among the residents of the United Arab Emirates. Ostensibly, the goal behind this undertaking is to raise awareness on health related issues.
Ataya, a community based autism related initiative is a beneficiary of such partnerships. Agthia also offered support to an initiative dabbed “pass the glass” designed to make water available to workers during the summer period in the UAE (Agthia 2013, p.1). This involved sensitizing workers on the importance of water in maintaining good health. The company endeavors to provide equal opportunities in order to promote emiratization. For this reason, it has signed memorandum of understanding with some training institutions to create a platform for training and providing career guidance and jobs for nationals of the United Arab Emirates.
As far as safeguarding the environment is concerned, Agthia strives to meet all environmental policies and regulations. It also works very closely with recycling companies to ensure safe disposal of waste. The company is also a keen observer of the world Environment Day and makes every effort to reduce the use of printers so as to reduce paper related waste (Agthia 2013, p.1). In addition, it collaborates with the Government of the United Arab Emirates to control water consumption. It also has plans to launch a Go Green initiative aimed at countering carbon emissions.
Differences and Similarities in CSR Activities
The major difference that can be been seen in the strategies used by the different companies has to do with the focus of the CSR activities. To a large extent, Microsoft’s CSR activities revolve around education and technology. Working closely with different educational and government institutions, the company has helped millions of users to learn how to use computers. In addition, a number of institutions have received without paying a single cent while others have been given computers at subsidized rates.
Google’s focus is similar to that of Microsoft given that its CSR activities include an element of education. However, the company also concerns itself with poverty reduction and environmental issues. GlaxoSmithKline on the other hand is mostly involved with partners from the health sector. As pointed out earlier, the company has partnered with Save the Children and other similar organizations to offer medical solutions for tropical diseases. Furthermore, the company contributes to research activities by providing research professionals with access to research data.
Clearly, its focus is quite different from that of Microsoft and the Google Company. Agthia on the other hand seems to be involved in a wide range of CSR activities. As earlier explained, the activities are classified under health and wellness, food safety and security, people and emiratization, and the environment. It thus works with partners from across various sectors based on what the end goal is. Similar to the Google Company, Agthia endeavors to protect the environment. It is also active in health as well as poverty reduction.
Despite the differences that have been singled out above, there is a common similarity that cuts across all the four companies. At the center of all the CSR activities that the four companies are involved in, is the desire to give back to the society in different forms and contribute to growth and development. Certainly, all the companies are in one way or another determined to make a difference in the lives of those who appear to be marginalized. All the companies are generally ready to partner with both private and public institutions in order to improve the standard of living.
Ideal Strategy for UAE Based Companies
To effectively position themselves in a global market environment, it is advisable for all companies operating in the UAE to rely on CSR initiatives that do not only concern themselves with philanthropy. Companies should have strategies that create opportunities fore learning and exchange of knowledge and ideas. While philanthropy is commendable, corporate social responsibility is what enables companies to make a difference. To have a greater impact, it is imperative for companies based in the UAE to replace their traditional approaches to CSR with modern ones that are more powerful.
Without a doubt, corporate social responsibility has a very important part to play in the development of a nation. Although the greatest focus of companies and business enterprises is to make profits, it pays to be involved in activities that are designed to improve the lives of others. Despite the fact that the many large corporations were initially opposed to the idea of corporate social responsibility, it makes so much sense especially because the existence of the companies mainly depends on healthy citizens with the ability to work hard and consume goods and services offered by companies.
Apparently, some companies have moved ahead of others and subsequently, fully embraced the idea of corporate social responsibility. Although some companies are still lagging behind, it is thus imperative to encourage every company, whether big or small, to look for the slightest opportunity to take part in corporate social responsibility designed to benefit the general public. Among other benefits, CSR activities open an avenue through which organizations can engage with members of the public and get instant feedback. As earlier explained, it is necessary for UAE based companies to adopt modern CSR strategies in order to succeed.
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