We must make a difference in the environment we operate in – for, without it, we would not survive. Our business and every other business exists in a certain context each with its own set of social and environmental issues. From our surroundings, we draw resources, labour, and a market. Issues in this environment may threaten business-as-usual. Therefore, it is in our best interest to make a difference in our business environment and positively contribute toward it. You may recognise this concept as social responsibility.
Social responsibility goes beyond flashy philanthropic efforts, ribbon cutting and press conferences. When a company wishes to make a difference, they must look past their bottom line. Being socially responsible calls for organisations to take ownership of their action’s effects on stakeholders, the community, and the environment. Avoiding negative consequences of our actions and enhancing positive ones is a long-term strategy incorporated into the very core of our business. With this strategy in mind, we can make a difference and actively contribute toward a better environment for all.
Commitment and vision from the leadership and management within a company drives corporate social responsibility. They motivate all individuals – as members of the organisation and as members of society, to make a difference through minimising environmental impacts, engaging with ethical persons and adding value to society.
The King III report encourages us to make a difference
Business entities are increasingly exerting power and influence over society. With this power comes an organisational responsibility to lead by example and act ethically.
The King III report has key principles which call for companies to be socially responsible through corporate governance and good corporate citizenship. These key principles are; good governance, sustainability, innovation, and social transformation. Contextualising each of these principles in terms of how they encourage us to make a difference needs a fresh perspective:
Leadership characterised by ethical values of responsibility, transparency, fairness, and accountability makes up good governance. When we speak of governance we are referring to the way organisations choose to make decisions and the relationships they hold between the members that govern and those that they govern.
Leaders make a difference through good governance by deciding which ethics and values are important. These decisions then guide business practices and behaviour regarding sustainability.
We need to think a few steps ahead when we plan to make a difference. Temporary and small efforts to make a difference don’t result in sustainable differences. This King III Report key principle focuses on sustainable development that allows companies to meet current needs without putting future generations at a disadvantage.
Companies, therefore, need to make a difference by shifting how they meet demands. We must ensure our immediate or long-term decisions aren’t harmful to society or the environment.
We haven’t progressed from outdated brick phones to infinity edge screens just for fun. Instead, technological advancements and innovations are part of a natural evolution resulting from new knowledge and discoveries – resultant of lifetime learning.
Innovation isn’t only a means to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage, but is also an organisational duty. Companies provide society with new ways of doing things to make life better and easier. All these innovations make a difference in everyday life and the way society functions.
This is a two-fold principle because innovation also provides companies with more sustainable practices. Organisations must become flexible and allow their employees to innovate and make meaningful contributions to their business environment.
A transformation refers to a revolutionary change or dramatic shift. Social issues revolve around demographic changes, urbanisation, education levels, roles of women, consumerism, and culture. Companies should try and make a difference by transforming social circumstances around these issues.
Please don’t feel for one second that only large corporations can make a difference. This ability lies within all citizens of society. It is an attitude and mindset that corporate citizens, communities, members of the public and even children need to learn to contribute toward society. We can all make a difference now that will meet the needs of future generations and leave a legacy.
This is just one of five values we live by, others include:
- BJ Erasmus, J. S. S. R.-K., 2013. Introduction to Business Management. 9th ed. Cape Town: Oxford.
- Argenti, P. A., 2013. Corporate Communication. 6th ed. New York: Mc Graw Hill.
- Meintjes, C. 2012. “Chapter 4: King III –The implications for Communication Management”, A strategic communication approach to managing stakeholder relationships according to the King Report on governance. Unpublished DCom in Communication Management. Pretoria: University of Pretoria, pp. 169–207. [Online]. Available at: http://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/27962/Co mplete.pdf?sequence=12