CSR: The Relationship Between the People and the Firm

Subject: Economics
Pages: 20
Words: 5542
Reading time:
20 min
Study level: PhD


CSR is a term used to describe the relationship between individual entities and the society. These entities may be people, that is, workers, employers and entrepreneurs or it can be firms. It depicts the relationship amongst people, people and firms or firms and other firms. The relationship between the people and the firm involves the firms’ shareholder since the firms running trend directly affect them. Any loses or deviations from the right track of making profit and credibility directly affect the shareholder. Campbell (2007, p. 951) therefore asserts that the company owes its shareholders the responsibility of protecting them from loss by avoiding them as well as rectifying mistakes once they are noted. This should be the primary objective of any company.

Companies can enact additional tasks that do not promote the businesses’ performance financially or otherwise and they are known as corporate social responsibilities. These social goods surpass legal obligations required by the governing authorities as well as by shareholders (Mc Williams & Siegel, 2001, p. 120). These activities mean to bring out sustainable use of natural resources that makes sure that the needs of current and future generations are equally satisfied without depletion of resources. CSR deviates from economic perspective of the firm, to the study of ecological zones. This involves the study of human behavior in society, their distribution and relationships. The firm comes into the human way of living to assist reaching equality in achieving basic requirements. A company is thus responsible for meeting legal and economic obligations in its operation as well as ethical and discretionally responsibilities. This involves streamlining the employees’ way of behavior in society as well as their engagement in societal issues outside the firm (Wartick & Cochran, 1985, p. 760). Studying CSR therefore requires detailed information on drivers that lead firms to conducting CSR in society willingly.

Family businesses

Family firms occur amongst family members or people with close family links. Many family businesses have existed worldwide such as the Ford and Warn Mart in America, Peugeot in Europe and LG and Samsung in Asia have existed across generations and create part of the largest businesses in the world. The main reason as to why family businesses grow and flourish to become huge businesses is because of their desire to control them sustainably across generations. This process involves long-term goal setting and continued patience of the founders. The firms may begin with little starting capital, where they use profits to expand the business over a long period. Family owned businesses involve a specialty in a given talent such as mechanical engineering to build vehicles together with a combination of skills that assist the individual businesses to fight and survive in the harsh market (Poza, 2007, p. 73).

Many family businesses operate only between the first and second generation after succession. One example is the GCC companies whose age is less than sixty years. They include a group of businesses that started out as low trading firms that expanded with time to form many branches. The main drivers behind their success stories have been favorable market conditions with minimal external competition, a massive amount of opportunities; ease in access to information, business networks and capital for making investments. These amenities could only be available to large and resourceful families. The running and control of the GCC business is central to family ties and only a few members who have the appropriate skills can run them. The family businesses keep family cultural practices. Some of these traditions include succession of the business by the eldest brother in the family. Since family members already adapted to these traditions, then there is less chances of conflicts due to ownership.

Family owned businesses involve a focus on new business opportunities that lead to the making of new investments until an area of specialization is reached. This restless behavior could lead to the downfall of an intended business to collapse if proper attention was accorded to them. Half of GCC family businesses also involve themselves in other business sectors. This could be the reason for the slow growth in the industry. Markets that indicate this kind of trend imply that investment capital is abundant, high chances of economic growth and limited competition amongst business entities. Family businesses also preserve their first businesses to operate despite the returns. This portrays an emotional attachment to the firm that gives the individual owners a sense of pride regarding their place of origin (Cheeseman, 2010, p. 67).

Following the current economic trend, the GCC firms risk to face a downfall since the trend is uncertain. The firms require instituting change in governing parameters to prepare for unknown changes in the market. The current economic situation involves an increment in competitiveness. This requires firms to increase their capital investments in order to survive the market forces. Family businesses will have to prove that they can survive in the harsh environment over the successive generations. On top of this, they also have to face the inability of third generation successors to run and operate the business. This occurs because there is incorporation of both family and non-family members in running the business. The brothers who succeeded the business soon beget their own children. All these children have a right over the family business, thus running it becomes a major problem. The overall responsibility is broken down to many individuals thus accountability diminishes. The increase in family size also results in a demand to increase business profits and expand the business to a level that gives equal amount of shares as the initial family unit. This trend indicates that the family business should expand by a fixed growth percentage; impossible to be attained in today’s economy (May, Cheney & Roper, 2007, p. 92).

Family businesses in Saudi Arabia

Being the richest country in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia proves to be an icon of study for family business operations. Family businesses account to forty five percent of the top performing companies, and on the overall context, ninety percent of all companies in Saudi Arabia are family owned. Over 700,000 businesses exist in Saudi Arabia, thus an important element in the country’s economic growth internally as well as internationally. A research on the family owned businesses aimed at discovering the problems faced by family businesses. Hypothesis used for the study included a visit on family organizational structure and size of capital, family business capitals and the level of control within them and the size of business and the activities involved in planning.

Research conducted involves a region that earns Saudi Arabia 60% of its GDP. The personnel and family business earn between 100 and 500 Saudi Riyals. These family businesses create employment opportunities too many people, especially youth, capital gathering, innovation and investments. Family firms could be run in terms of ownership, where the family members own and run more than half of the business and the decisions they make affect the leadership succession. The family business can also be categorized in terms of running the business by family members or in terms of the emotional perception of family members towards a given business.

The review of family business in Saudi Arabia covered over five hundred-business directors, which was a fair percentage of 85 of all directors in SA. The firms aimed at employee satisfaction and productivity, improving on quality of goods and services provided to the customer, providing financial security to the owners of the business, improving on social responsibility, job security and increasing personal growth of those involved in its operation. These family businesses create a better working environment than those that are not family based. The employers and employees create a firm relationship amongst each other. The employer trusts his employees to assist in decision-making and offering advice on tough situations. There exists no definite description of level of work even though the employees assist in crucial decision-making issues. They are known to engage in low risk activities as well as resisting change that comes by. The cultural setting of families in SA involves the family members living together as well as conducting family business together. This makes huge family unions have a greater advantage over the small family businesses (Weber & Pete, 2012, p. 98).

Due to the similarity in conducts, family businesses suffer from poor planning especially in Eastern SA. Most businesses run manually with no written records and plans. The few that have business plans only view short and middle terms between six months and five years. They plan for annual budgets but do not keep any formal records. All the businesses aim at making optimum profits with a domination of 66%, twenty percent aim at improving market share and about seventeen percent on improving and differentiating market share. Family businesses in Saudi Arabia recruit qualified personnel in the relevant fields of specialty. The organizational structures of the management team lacks in the form of charts and boards.

The communication channel in use for most family businesses account to face to face amongst leaders and their subordinates. Frequent meetings among the members of the family business as well as the workers are held to point out problems faced and look for corrective measures. About fifty percent of personnel communicate by mode of internet for convenience. Control measures that ensure that business plans are carried out as planned include punishment to workers who do not adhere to the laid out procedures. Members in the management team comprise of trained personnel holding relevant bachelor and masters degrees. The higher level of management thus collaborates with lower level management in delegation of duties and responsibilities. The managerial team relies on employee experience to assist in running the business. Hence, the added trust in their relations (Crane & Matten, 2007, p. 63).

The main features of family business are succession attributes which ensure sustainability as does apply to Arabian cultures. Other determinants of sustainability include the cultural attributes, religious and legal frameworks, the successor and founder attributes family priorities and values as well as planned behavior theory. Most family based lack a written plan, which is operation at high risk. In case of the founder’s death, then planning would start afresh, which may lead to many errors and deviations from the expected track. Small family enterprises lack security due to large family cartels that have greater capital and qualified personnel to run them. The legal framework mostly used incorporates the sharia law to govern the running of the business. The succession rate of family businesses in the world up to the second generation in the world accounts to thirty percent. This is largely due to economic factors as well as failure to plan for business continuation to successive generations. In Saudi Arabia, only ten percent of family businesses pull through till the third generation. These psychological aspects and social collective aspects limit family succession in businesses. Nepotism within a family business assures it of destruction. The family succession limits most family businesses from flourishing due to lack of skills and qualifications.

The sharia law also governs the manner in which ownership has to be transferred and how they differ from voting rights. It dictates the procedures one should follow in the issuance of property before one dies as well as the agreement on family voting power. The shareholders running the business are required to acquire shares that are equal to total number of votes owned. These laws limit contingencies that may occur because of increased family member ownership. The businesses should run with minimal involvement of family members (Werther & Chandler, 2011, p. 65).

Differences between family owned firms and shareholder owned firms, in global and Saudi Arabia

Family owned firms globally are run by members of a family whether distant or close. Family owned firms require the members of a family to identify the most appropriate activity to invest in that brings in maximum benefits. It utilizes the concept of families gaining social prestige and building a name in the local community for recognition. The personnel have to be careful so as not to mix family issues with business related issues. The family needs should be met as a first priority followed by growth and expansion. The business should only provide a given percentage of profits for use by the family members, and use the other to expand the business. In family businesses, socio-emotional needs cannot be separated from the economic goals of running the company. Issues of nepotism are common in family owned businesses since succession is based on family ties. Most of the family based firms are located in areas of limited competition from other enterprises, access to required capital and information.

In shareholder firms, the aims are clear as to ensure economic growth and maximization of profits. The family relationships of the managerial team do not affect the running of the business. The personnel running the business should prove their ability to run a business by displaying leadership skills in accordance to duties given to them. Shareholder firms are located in highly competitive areas where market forces of demand and supply fluctuate across time. The managerial team has the obligation to ensure that shareholder dividends are maximized as well as the firm profits. Shareholder led firms lay off their employees in the occurrence of better skilled personnel who can run their business. These firms opt to employ people on basis of contracts that expire on annual basis. This makes the employees compete for positions and promotions to receive better pay (Hunnicutt, 2009, p. 72).

In Saudi Arabia, families live together as well as conduct business together. Family business is a long-term investment regarding financial security as well as that of basic amenities. Family businesses focus on gaining local prestige and building a social class in the immediate community. Ownership is passed on to the next family member regardless of their skills in running the business. In SA, family owned firms seek to revolve around cultural ties and are distinguished by the size of capital involved. The businesses are supposed to create employment opportunities to their local citizens. This frames them on a collective responsibility rather than individualism like the shareholder firms. Large families form large firms, thus increase their capital to built large firms. The family businesses are affected by religious and legal obligations with accordance to sharia law. This compromises the firm’s ability to maximize on profits. The sharia law must be followed since they believe that it is the path and guidance of all aspects of Muslim life. Inheritance law to the shareholder owned firms allows them to choose an heir based on trust and judgment.

For shareholder firms, it is the duty of the managing directors to come up with an appropriate methodology for employing qualified personnel to run the business. The first priority of the shareholder firm is to protect the interests of the stakeholder. The management should ensure that profits are maximized by optimizing employee working ability as well as provision of best services in that field of business. They should also ensure that no mistakes are made in the running of the company, and once a mistake is noted, it should be rectified immediately. Shareholder firms focus on present success that will increase stakeholder dividends and lead to future expansion of the business. Engaging in CSR thus increases the firms marketing capacity to the immediate society and is a positive enactment. This increases the chances of expanding customers in the area and improving the firm’s credibility.

The family owned businesses are prone to collapse in the third generation of succession due to lack of adequate skills to run the business. This could also be attributed to the fact that family members duplicate in number due to growth in the family tree. The increment of responsibility towards running of the business creates a situation whereby accountability on the use of resources lacks. Failure of accountability drains efforts put in by responsible family members by the careless ones. A diverse number of interests occur which cause the overall running of the firm to collapse. The increased generation also expects that an equal share of privileges be maintained to them, as was the case when the beneficiaries were less. This requires the occurrence of an expanding business and a steady increment in profits at abnormal rates. The irony of this expansion further reflects due to harsh economic times when businesses need more capital to sustain them.

Family owned firms lack a clear outline between levels of authority to various personnel in the family. Most family owned businesses run on ad hoc basis. The managing director of the firm institutes the business plans in their memories and do not have written records of the plans. In the case of his death, then the family members would have to generate new plans that may not create a proper combination to work with the previous business setting. For shareholder owned firms, the business structures and dynamics reflect in organizational charts and records. They operate under a system of delegation of duties. This ensures continuity in the running of the business even after the current personnel in charge retires from the business. The shareholder owned firms focus on activities that will assist the employees in conducting business at ease to bring more yields. They also lay off employees to ensure that the firm does not exceed the expected expenses. This occurs during periods of inflation and unstable market forces.

CSR Implementation

Business relations with a large number of individuals promote its ability to attain success. Any business must ensure that the society in which it operates acquires normal social and environmental conditions in order for the business to succeed. This creates the necessity for the company to engage in CSR to ensure responsible behavior. Individual firms use different methods of incorporating CSR. A risk assessment has to be done before implementing CSR in a given community as well as the company mission and expected operations. The business involved should allocate its resources without depleting the companies’ resources and its obligation to stakeholders. It has to be proved that engaging in the CSR would not lead to the collapse of business or breaking of responsibility to stakeholders. The business has to prepare o proposal that allows the stakeholders to agree in its engagement in CSR by providing evidence of its advantages. CSR can be implemented through phases that suite the business time and resource scale.

Decision making on the implementation of a CSR should involve the study of economic, environmental and social frameworks. This involves planning all relevant actions to be taken before embarking on implementing the CSR. This involves gathering of information that may be useful in implementing a CSR. The first step should involve conducting a CSR assessment. This assessment brings out the main drivers that led the firm to decide to carry out a CSR. They could be external or internal factors with an attachment on the ethical values of the firm. The selected team should identify all the issues that affect the firm and the stakeholders that could be used to assist in decision making. Previous activities concerning CSR should be identified and a budget prepared over expected costs by the human resource team. Importance of making an assessment can be named as assisting in formulation of informed decisions (Kotler & Lee, 2005, p. 79).

The management team should identify personnel who can be involved in the implementation process. These personnel would then be used to create a CSR implementation team. The team should comprise of any volunteers, personnel with different qualified skills as well as part of the managerial team. This increases diversity of ideas and ensures that all possible issues be sorted. They should then come up with working terms while designing the CSR. This requires the team members to set up and discover existing legal frameworks from which to operate. Some of the team members would be required to review business documents to affirm its capacity to engage in a CSR. The stakeholders of the firm form the key structures of importance in any business and should thus be involved in this process. A selection is made from the few stakeholders to be a representative of the rest and to present the majority view.

The next step would be to formulate a CSR strategy that would engage the overall members of the firm interested in engaging in the CSR. This involves collaborating with the senior most personnel in the firm as well as the employees. It would be fundamental to conduct a review on previous CSR conducted by other companies as well as studying the value of CSR instruments. This would be followed by the preparation of a presentation chart that would indicate strategies to be used to reflect proposed actions for implementation. This involves coming up with ideas that propose the way forward concerning the business and the team members. The team members should be clear on the proper approach to follow their laid out plan, when to seize using their abilities and the most important areas to focus on. A proper CSR should incorporate environmental, social and economic benefits and simultaneously address stakeholder’s interests.

The team should then prepare to carry out the plan in the preferred societal field. The team members should find out all the requirements needed in order to hold a CSR. These procedures involve reviewing existing mission statements, codes of conduct and relevant documents to assist in operating the CSR. This assists the company to realize how much is expected from them to conduct the entire process. A working strategy involves the formulation of the appropriate direction to follow in order to fulfill the desired scope of events. The team should hold another meeting with the firm’s stakeholders to discuss major discoveries as well as get their consent. They should then create a working group that would contribute ideas useful for developing a commitment plan. The meeting minutes should be recorded and a preliminary draft created. The stakeholders should once again be confronted for consultation for their acceptance or denial (Friedman, 1998, p. 52).

Some of the common problems encountered while implementing CSR in the community include lack of a vision to motivate team members to carry out the desired activities. The team should formulate long-term missions and goals that will drive them to work harder to reach their objective. The team should also be prepared to handle any changes that may prompt them to deviate from the planned scope of activities. They should use new technologies as well as unfamiliar methods to cope with the situation.

Implementing CSR in communities includes an added obligation of the firm to conduct other activities such as protection and service to the environment. This in turn would ensure that people learn on equitable use of resources while satisfying their needs, thus promoting sustainable development. The firm should also ensure that ethical standards are promoted while conducting the CSR and when its implementation is through. This is done through employees and customer relationships in and out of the firm. Implementation of CSR should also not put the community health at risk nor deplete the existing safety standards.

CSR implementation in family firms

CSR in context to family firms involve collaboration of cultures, religious influences environmental, social and economic parameters and protecting the family reputation in society. The differences in cultural attributes between the firm and the local community create a large problem for the family owned businesses while implementing CSR. The given family businesses should adopt the drivers to adopting CSR and action plans for their implementation. The firm achieves its driving force from the need to acquire economic empowerment to gain profits for attaining a social class and prestige in society. This achievement revolves around socio-emotional needs that the family business has to maintain. Implementation of CSR by family owned businesses has to ensure that their socio-emotional needs reach a standard of continuity. Family firms continue their operations across generations among people with close family ties. They have to overcome both internal and external risks in their area of operation.

Family business

Family businesses incorporate the union of a small number of individuals who are family members with an economic motivator vision. The firm aims at reaching sustainability in that it satisfies current family members as well as the subsequent members in future generations. These family members manage and run the business for their own benefits at a higher scale than that of CSR. This applies, though the main driver of having a successful business is provision of services that satisfy people’s needs. The incorporation of CSR in family businesses requires a view on firm motivators to conduction of CSR, ways in which firms carry out achievement of motivators as well as the differences between family and non family ways of implementing CSR. CSR activities by family firms bring a need to study any relations between CSR motivators and implementation methods by firms (Baron, 2001, p. 44).

Research on family business behavior with regard to CSR reflects varied results according to diverse scientific scholars specializing on literature. One group of scientists asserts that behavior reflected by family firms does not only relate to CSR, but rather a diverse number of determinant issues (De La Cruz Deniz Deniz & Suarez, 2005, p. 29). However, family members’ characteristics and cultural values influence family firms’ mode of conducting CSR. Additional research to support this assertion needs to be made in order to support it fully. Neihm & Swinney, (2008, p. 331), conducted a research on the actions that lead to conduction of CSR and their merits and demerits.

This determines whether the nature of CSR is dependent on family business behavior or how it influences family businesses. Population dynamics contribute highest as a determiner of CSR incorporation to family firms. The third group of researchers focus on whether relations between firms and their stakeholders may take place due to family based reasons. Ethical based relations between family businesses and CSR should offer a more convincing approach of research according to Adams, Shore and Taschian. Focus should be directed to how family firms affect ethical behavior in society. Family businesses behave in a more cautious manner compared to other firms with regard to their relations to society do. This reflects in the manner in which they treat their employees, the environment and the outside community.

Corporate social responsibility can evolve from a diverse number of drivers in the family business context. The first driver as asserted by Bronn & Cohen, (2009, p. 95), is economic and moral dimensions. They argue that for a firm to engage in CSR, it has to feel the pressure from existent legal requirements; culture based societal issues and a will to create benefits from problems faced by the firm. They also bring forth that CSR activities occur through factors inherent in the firm as well as factors outside the firm or role of proper expected behavior in society and instrumental concerns. The largest motivator of conducting CSR in family firms is an urge to achieve recognition on involvement in moral governance, to serve long-term interests of the firm as well as a drive to uplift the firm’s image in society.

Motives behind CSR conduction can be institutional or instrumental. Institutional drivers involve a duty to pay back to society to improve its reputation. The instrumental drivers involve strategies that believe in using CSR to earn competitive advantages against other firms as well as venture into new business opportunities. Firms engage in strategic plans that depict a gain for both society and the firm through engaging in CSR as well as moral concerns towards the society. The strategic plans improve customer-firm relationships in terms of individual believes in achieving a subsequent economic gain. Managers of firms use these dimensions for decision making as well as policymaking methodologies. Individual firms have to balance between making optimum profits and corporate social responsibilities. The drivers have to benefit the firm either way as well as benefit the society for them to be social responsibilities. This also involves protecting the firm shareholders as well as its stakeholders who include the society, employees, suppliers and clients. This is done through proper management activities that lead to provision of donations and environmental protection to society, adequate and timely wages to employees, adherence to legal laws and regulations and provision of quality goods and services according to customer preferences. The CSR has to meet enterprise demands, environment, customer and employee demands.

Differences between CSR implementation in family owned and shareholder owned firms.

The main differences between CSR implementation shareholder owned firms and family owned firms are quite clear.

Family owned businesses have lesser concerns in regards to the environment as compared to the shareholder owned firms. This is because the primary objective of the family business is to provide for the emotional and affectionate needs of the family members. They seek to achieve a social status in their society as well as financial security to the family. The shareholder owned firms put into consideration its employees, its customers, the community and environmental protection. Family based organizations have close relations with their employees, but this goes unrewarded as it bases itself on trust. For the shareholder owned firm, any assistance by the employees is rewarded through bonuses and promotions. Promotions are almost impossible in family owned businesses due to the managerial and supervisory team comprising of only family members. CSR is therefore limited by the focus of attending to family matters at first before incorporating society.

Family owned businesses focus on corporate performance and growth rather than on CSR. They thus avoid CSR to concentrate profits to the expansion of the business rather than directing it to society; from which they receive no returns. The family business owners gain emotional satisfaction such as building an admirable reputation and social status that offers them prestige in the local community rather than economic gains. These makes they focus more on their business growth rather than societal empowerment (Deniz and Suarez, 2005). This is important due to the succession focus of family owned businesses. The current owners wish to leave a legacy of socioeconomic satisfaction to the next generations, thus building a social class for their family. Due to their exposure in the local community where the business is located, the family firm seeks to maintain its status rather than engaging in CSR that may damage their reputation.

Shareholder owned firms seek to ensure economic gains in order to protect their stakeholder’s interests and ensure continuous growth of the firm. Stakeholder’s interests gather around having increments in profits, firm’s credibility, customer satisfaction, employee payment of justifiable wages and good supplier relations. Engaging in CSR would thus improve its credibility and appraisal of the firm’s name in society. These firms seek to be well known to increase the number of customers by word of mouth, the best-known marketing strategy. CSR would involve the firm in incurring an extra cost in order to meet its organizational goals as well as take care of society by ensuring environmental protection. Overall, CSR would lead to a net gain in profits due to increase in credibility as well as customers who increase the firm’s profits. CSR could also lead to a net gain for the company such as improved accessibility to water.

CSR implementation in family organizations remains negative regardless of having CEO from a business owning family. Family firms focus less on financial goals but engulf on building a positive family image and reputation. The founder firms react positively on the introduction of CSR whereas the family based organizations remain negative. The corporate reputation of family based organizations does not show any substantial improvements due to engagement in CSR. Shareholder owned firms increase their credibility by engaging in CSR. They reflect social responsibility to the environment and the local communities.

The aims of shareholder owned firms focus on improving the community by engaging in CSR. The firm could start up these social responsibilities or else it could engage in supporting a CSR already started by another organization. Family owned firms rarely merge with other firms to bring up a general good to the community. This can only occur in existent large family owned businesses that have succeeded across many generations. The reason as to why many families owned businesses do not engage in CSR activities revolves around their use of cumulated capital to invest and expand their businesses.

CSR motivators of implementation for family owned businesses involve goodwill and the focus does not evolve on creation of a marketing avenue. The reason behind this is that family owned businesses that engage in CSR already satisfied their socio-emotional needs for creating a reputation and prestige. Their engagement in CSR only reflects a generous act out of their abundance of wealth. For shareholder owned firms, CSR requires preparation of a business management plan since it forms part of the business operations. The shareholder firm may engage in CSR as a generous act or else to sell itself to the community. Creating awareness to the community would in turn increase customers as well as its credibility. In the end, this would lead to an increment in profits and economic improvement.


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