There is a debate about the level of social responsibility of multinational and national companies there days. Various books have been written detailing the right approach to the problem covering different perspectives. The ideology is well developed, however, there is a lack of current case studies analyzing what is really happening in the corporate executive level to support the society. There are many mission statements written about social responsibility, however, it is essential to examine how companies approach the projects and how they educate their employees to involve them in their plans.
Social responsibility can be determined different ways, just as goals can be set for different causes. There are various motivations behind the decision to choose social priority, and often this involved impressing customers with an event or spectacular donation. In the below study we will review PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PWC) Chicago office’s projects regarding social responsibility; charity events, donations and volunteering work.
PWC is an organization that takes social responsibility seriously. On their main corporate website, we can see a full page being dedicated to the mission regarding giving back to the society. According to the company, their main motivations to help achieve public welfare are the recession and to provide education opportunities for young people from disadvantaged families. The Chicago office has recently been involved in many volunteering projects. We will first review one of the main events of this year: Operation Hope at Chicago Schools. Interns from the company did volunteer their time to provide financial education for young people from grade 4 to 8. The project “Banking on Our Future” was developed to fight recession and educate the future generation about money and budgeting. The program BOOF was started in 2009, and it is intending to provide students the knowledge to develop a healthy attitude towards money and spending. Since the start of the program, 597.000 young people were educated and over 115.000 volunteers were trained by the program.
PWC also works together with the Communities in Schools Chicago charity, providing financial support for maintaining and improving the program. Providing a healthy environment and surroundings, the Chicago Parkways Foundation has also received contributions from the company. The First Giving Junior Achievement website features three teammates from the company, who seek donors for different charities. The team has raised over 1.7 million dollars for the organization. The fact that teams start up and join different voluntary organizations and charities show that giving back is truly a company philosophy, and the words are backed up by acts.
Another important aspect of PWC's charity and voluntary work is the resources they put into research. As one of the largest international consulting companies, they are concerned about the efficiency and availability of public services. A comprehensive report about charity care issue in the United States has been published by the company to provide recommendations to new strategies in order to make these organizations more effective.
It is important that that company focuses on giving back to the society, and through their reputation they are able to become the voice of the disadvantaged crowd. Just recently, PWC has completed an independent report regarding the UN Climate Change negotiations, and knowing that the company has the resources and expertise to provide relevant and convincing data for the public and leaders, this is an important step. One of the main focus of the voluntary work of the company is climate change, and they have completed many projects regarding sustainable development and effective renewable energy sources.
After reviewing the charity and voluntary work completed by the company and its employees, it is time to examine the values and motivations behind these actions. Does the company truly embrace the idea of giving back or is it a public relations propaganda? We will use two of the sources to review the actions and determine the aspects of charitable giving and volunteering at PWC.
As PWC is a public company, it is interesting to examine the other side of the argument as well. Although voluntary projects and charity giving are highly respected by most people, it is also raising the question: “whether the giving is not a theft from stakeholders”? According to Banerjee (2007. pp. 23.), some corporations and stakeholders think that the main purpose of a company is to invest, develop and prosper, increase its resources and value. Some of the authors argue that the resources used by PWC and other companies involved in similar projects should have been preserved for achieving corporate goals. (Margolis and Walsh, 2003.) It is important to state at this point that the executive member stakeholders of PWC are all behind the organization’s ideas, and board members do personally contribute donations. Therefore, we need to look into the vision and values of the firm to find out more about their motivations.
According to Banerjee, (2007. pp. 43.), there are four different principles defining the visions and values of an individual or organization. The first one is respect. This principle is easy to find integrated within the mission statement of the company regarding to social responsibility. “Decisions and actions taken by the private sector can have profound effects—for better or for worse—on the public welfare.” (PWC corporate website. Online.) The next one is integrity. We can see this being present in both the leadership and employee level of the firm. We have seen that executives donated their knowledge, resources and time to create reports on some of the issues affecting today’s society the most. We have also seen the Chicago intern team teaching the next generation about money. It looks like the values are shared across the firm, and if we look at the London office’s charity work and event list, we will see that PWC is committed to giving back to the society on a global scale.
Finally, we need to review PWC Chicago’s activities in the light of criticism. Using the Ethical Egoism
argument, we can clearly see that although the firm has a good reputation of knowing markets, trends, finances and incorporation issues, it might not be in the best interest of people in need to get their needs or wants through another organization. We can only determine whether the interaction of the private sector in social issues is beneficial if we evaluate the results and seek feedback. Although children need to be educated about money, would it not be better to leave it to the schools or families? Is is really advantageous for young people from different backgrounds to get to know a huge corporation's financial experts' views? On the other hand, we can also see that the company is likely to attempt pressurizing decision makers by creating executive reports about charities and global warming.
We also need to examine how PWC invades people's privacy and whether they are trying to influence people through their weight of reputation. Another important aspect is degradation. By making groups of people a subject of a donation (ie. School project), the company clearly states that they need it. There are no initial studies carried out to ensure that the financial education provided by the program is necessary or beneficial. The real question is: if PWC implemented the ethical egotist mindset, would the life of people involved in its social responsibility programs be better, worse or the same. According to a study based on the answers of 473 executives by Graafland and Mazereeuw-van der Duijn (2010) to hypothesis questions, intrinsic motives are stronger than extrinsic ones. The study also recommends that governments will be careful when providing companies incentives in order to stimulate Socially responsible business conduct (SRBC).
Finally, we need to cover the question of cultural and moral relativism briefly. This brings up a similar dilemma: is is really good for people to be guided? As there is a freedom of faith on most of the world, do we need guidance from people we have to look up to? Cultural relativism can be brought up in relation with the company's work in Haiti. The victims are provided with support to survive the financial hardship after the catastrophe, however, it is possible that they needed other type of help or support, i.e. emotional, family or education. There is no doubt that charitable giving and volunteering does improve a modern firm’s reputation, but studies are needed to determine whether it is SRBC is able to provide real values to the society.