Corporate Responsibility: Theory and Practice

Corporate responsibility by companies operating at different levels of the society can be defined as concepts by these companies to combine social and ecological concerns in their business activities. Corporate responsibilities are increasingly valuable in the growing national and international markets. Companies and businesses are aware of the corporate responsibilities being major indicators of financial buoyancy, competitive edge and product loyalty of companies. Evidence suggest that companies and organizations committed to ethical and social responsibilities benefit in a range of ways, there appear to be a potential conflict between this fact and the primary objective of a company to expand in market growth and profit. However, company’s corporate responsibility and market growth and profit maximization are not mutually exclusive. Corporate responsibility and public morals entail making of distinction between negative injunctions and affirmative duties, all men have the moral obligation to evade social injury and to categorize conditions responsible for social injury. Corporations have become more concerned about the needs of the employees, needs of schools and hospitals and social welfare agencies. The discourse is therefore, based on the difference between injunctions against activities causing harm to others and duties that require affirmative chase of good.


When corporate become the benefactors of society, by being involved in the management of social affairs of the society at the same time fulfilling their key objective of profit making is magnificent. Other social responsibility of the companies involve making of profit in ways that do minimize social injury. Business activities may injure others. Therefore, it is the duty of business to avoid causing damages as part of the social responsibility, thus it is important to regulate the social consequences of one’s business operations as best as possible.

The discourse in the public domain abounds with failures of distinguishing positive and lofty ideals and the minimum requirements of social organization. People have not created laws that create within themselves a predisposition to love and show kindness but have succeeded in devising laws which will reduce the injury and pain one individual might suffer at the hand of another. The virtue of love can be a possession of a few but justice in the sense of not injuring others is a requirement of all. Negative injunctions to avoid and correct social pains are found in all morality. One may choose to limit the concept of social responsibility but cannot exclude negative injunction. Reasons may appear why an individual or an institution may not be required to pursue morality and social good in all situations, there are many reasons why one should be excused from the injunction of injuring others. Any individual, institution or organization may have competition requirements which in under some reasons surpass the negative injunction. But these special conditions do not wash away the obvious need and obligation to avoid causing harm to others.

A society where citizens go well beyond the need to evade harming and causing pain to others will surely be a better society. It is known that individuals show varying degrees of concern and commitment to promoting affirmatively the public welfare where everyone is expected to desist from causing harm to others. Moral minimum are duties to avoid and correct self caused injuries. When the self caused injuries are not specifically defined, the individual goes to an extent of avoiding them so that pain and self imposed suffering is negated. The individual in this case helps in defining responsibilities, responsibility to one’s self, responsibility to others and the responsibility to the society. The duties to others, minimum injunction for responding positively when others are in social injuries, helping them minimize the injuries they go through. These responsibilities to individuals, to the society and to one self have been modeled and called Kew Gardens Principle. The principle follows a more detailed examination of various features. Statutes like Vermont recognize that it is not possible to require a person to give assistance in all cases to someone in need, if such needs may put his life in jeopardy, interfere with duties to others and when some other people are offering the need. The nature of commitment gives some shape to complex cases and is in particular similar to conditions set in the Kew Gardens. The conspicuous features of the Kew Gardens principle are need, proximity, capability and last resort. The kitty was modeled based on what happened in Kew Gardens section of New York. This is the story. Several years ago the public and the nation at large in America was shocked by the news account of the stabbing and the agonizing death of Kitty Genovese in the Kew Gardens, New York. Thirty eight people were present at the scene, watched and heard her but did nothing to help. What really shocked and disturbed the public’s moral sense was that in the middle of a crucial human need, people who could give that need and had the powers to do something failed to help. The public reaction suggested that, no matter how one may conceive of social responsibility, there are some situations where combination of circumstances inhibits people from reacting. Life requires some emergency situations and failure to respond to such emergencies violates the negative injunction against causing social injury. The following are the key tenets of Kew Gardens Principle based on the story of a girl who was stubbed and died at Kew Gardens section of the New York.

Needs, in cases where the last resort, proximity and capability are constant, high demand of need calls for increased responsibility. Kitty Genovese was stubbed by an assailant not discussed in the ordeal, social injury was inflicted on her thus making her be in quick need to be salvaged  from death. She needed quick medical emergency services to curb the imminent death that threatened her. Surprisingly, over thirty people who were available could not do anything to help but watched her die. Increased need increases responsibility but that did not happen.

Proximity, about thirty eight witnesses of Genovese slaying were close to the ordeal geographically. Proximity to a situation is not definitely defined space, size and position. It is a function of notice, an individual is held blameworthy if he is aware of the imperil and do not do anything to remedy the situation. The thirty eight witnesses were therefore, delinquents not because they were near the ordeal but because being near made then to see what was happening which made them aware that somebody was in need. A person who was deaf and near the situation could not be held blameworthy even if he was nearer than the individuals who could hear. A man in far country as India could be held blameworthy if he has knowledge of serious illness of another person in Ottawa, if he can telephone a medical practitioner about it for necessary remedy. When we become aware of any wrong doing or a social injustice we take on responsibilities that we did not have while in ignorance. Notice do not exhaust the meaning of proximity but it is reasonable to hold a person blameworthy if he is aware of his neighbors sickness and takes no effort to inquire about the welfare of the sick neighbor.

Capability, if there is a need to which a person has the proximity, that person is not held blameworthy unless there is something he can reasonably do to meet the need. In Kew Gardens incident, it could not have been logical to expect anybody to place himself between the girl and the knife but it was surely reasonable to expect somebody to call the police. It could also be reasonable for somebody to intercept the assailant fleeing after stabbing the girl. Capability by individuals at the proximity of any social injustice or injury depends on the availability of options that could not put the life or lives of the rescuers at risk. Nobody could risk his life to salvage the life of the girl.

Last resort, the emergency situation discussed above describes a situation in which when an individual becomes more concerned, reduces the likelihood of another person coming to aid. Physical proximity and time factors, if the sword is drawn, an individual cannot wait for the police to come. Determination in this situation becomes difficult the more complex social situation is. The event at Kew Gardens in New York in the presence of thirty eight people, there was hope that someone else could come forward to give aid. The rationalization entered into the silence of the thirty eight people in the Garden. In the large organizations, it is difficult to know if whether a person is aware of the wrong doing, but also if there is someone else to respond. Because of the diffusion of responsibilities in complex organizations and societies, the idea of last resort is minimally useful compared to other Kew Gardens criteria in establishing  if one ought to respond in aid to someone in need, or to correct social injury. Inability to act because one hopes someone will act or trying to find out the last resort may lead to situations where no one acts at all.

Role of business activities in the society, business is a mighty instrument which we are morally obliged to use for the purpose of advancing, progressing and improving the human civilization. Human beings have the power to add value to the world or remove value from it. The moral lesson of people individually or collectively is to nurture the wisdom and to do the work according to the creative and ability of human beings, to make the world better than it was found. The moral obligation of business is to master all the initiatives for the purpose of producing goods, services and instances for human achievement to make the world better. Business men and women have the moral obligation to assess what they are producing for the society and decide what is morally worthy, which ones will contribute substantially in making the world better. Business need to work to create and market goods and services morally worthy and to evade those which are not. This is the moral obligation of companies.

The opposing reasons in the public perception towards the business social responsibilities are that it is wrong to ask business to initiate activities that would make the world a better place. Instead the public believe that laws, market prices and public perception are enough to determine what resources companies need to consume, and what resources companies need to produce to make the world a better place. Obeying the laws are not enough since business laws and social protection as to the commodities industries produce should not only protect the society, but also ensure the lives of individuals are protected.  Heeding the market is not enough since laws regulate what companies need to produce; markets provide positive guidance concerning goods and services to be produced by companies. Responding to public expectations is not enough, firms should respond to non economic demands, take guidance from expectation of the society, and respond positively to stakeholders like company’s employees, customers and community.


Company’s social responsibilities involve giving back to the community by assisting in areas like environmental conservation, building of schools are churches, promoting education and producing goods and services that would not harm the general public. Laws are put in place by institutions of government regulating activities of businesses, the sole objective of business is to make a profit but corporate responsibilities must also be undertaken for ensuring the company’s image is enhanced in public, to ensure brand loyalty and incase sales.  Kew Garden principles as elaborated by Simon et al postulates how social injuries and injustices are avoided based on the need, proximity, capability and the last resort. People need to help those in need.

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