1) What words do you associate with ‘corporation’? Write down five words.
2) What companies/brands do you like? Why?
3) Do you know companies that have bad reputations? What for?
4) Are there products you won’t buy for ethical reasons? If so, what are they?
The Corporate Social Responsibility Debate
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), also known as corporate conscience, is a commitment to integrate social and environmental concerns into a company’s business model. CSR incorporates public and environmental interests into corporate decision-making.
Proponents of CSR believe that a corporation should not only be responsible to shareholders but also to the environment and company stakeholders. These stakeholders may include employees, customers, communities, and related groups that support the organization. Approaches to implementing CSR include community-based development, creating better business practices to mitigate risk, and philanthropy.
Economist Milton Friedman presented the classic objection to CSR in 1970. Friedman argued that the success of a free-market economy is based on the premise that the only social responsibility of a business, provided it operates lawfully, is “to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” Friedman equated CSR to “spending someone else’s money for a general social interest.” Doing so, he argued, would be usurping a political role by imposing taxation (in the form of CSR policies) on shareholders. Such a role is appropriate for a socialist government, not a corporation, according to Friedman.
Central to the CSR debate is the question of whose interests a corporation ought to serve. This question, known as the shareholder-stakeholder debate, pits anti-regulation economists like Friedman against those who believe companies should be bound by ethical and international norms (and not only laws) to protect the interests of all stakeholders. CSR has gained increased importance in the last two decades due to a new phenomenon called ethical consumerism — the practice of educated consumers purchasing only products they believe are made ethically. As a consequence, many companies are now being pressured to adopt CSR strategies regardless of whether they genuinely care about social responsibility or not. (293)
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan : Comprehension Questions
1) In your own words, how would you define CSR?
2) What is the difference between a shareholder and a stakeholder?
3) What are some ways mentioned in the article by which a company can implement CSR?
4) Why does Friedman associate CSR with politics?
5) How are consumers influencing CSR nowadays?
A shareholder owns stock in a company. Stakeholders are those who are affected by the operations of a company.
CSR can be implemented through enlightened business planning, philanthropy, and community-based projects.
He associates CSR with politics because he believes requiring a company and its shareholders to pay for the public good is akin to taxation. Taxation is the function of a government, not a corporation. Corporation should not tax themselves.
Consumers are influencing CSR nowadays by only purchasing products that are made ethically.
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Vocabulary Matchine
Match the words with their meaning as used in the news lesson. (Note: good as homework for students)
pit x against y (verb)
conscience – the part of your mind that judges right and wrong
incorporate – include
proponent – advocate, supporter
stakeholder – a person or group involved with an organization
mitigate – alleviate, lesson
philanthropy – helping the needy, especially by giving money
premise – a basis or step in an argument
provided – if
usurp – seize, take over
pit x against y – put two people/things in contest against each other
bind – constrain, restrict
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Connect the below idea(s) to make a sentence.
government / uprising
listen / conscience
incorporate / CSR
proponent / philanthropy
premise / false
stakeholder / concern
provided / make / profit
usurp / authority
pit / neighbour / neighbour
bind / law
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Central Issues (Pair Work)
Do you agree with the below arguments Milton Friedman makes in his article?
The only social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits.
Businesses are not bound by the same responsibilities as people. The business world operates within a different set of rules.
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Debate 1
(Note: each student reads his/her role to himself/herself)
Student A: You are a shareholder in the XYZ Company. Despite the economic crisis, you have heard that the board of directors wants to implement a large (and costly) CSR campaign next year. You are against this. Think of reasons to support your argument. (Student B, a member of the board, will start the discussion.)
Student B: You are on the board of directors at the XYZ Company. You believe that, by implementing a CSR campaign in the next year, your company can make more long-term profits. Think of reasons to support your argument. When ready, announce the news of the CSR campaign to your shareholders. (Student A is one of your shareholders.)
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Debate 2
Student A: You are the CEO of ABC Pharmaceuticals. Your secretary has arranged a meeting with Student B for you today. You do not know what it’s about.
Student B: You are on the neighborhood planning committee in the community where Student A’s company, ABC Pharmaceuticals, operates. Your committee is hoping to build a large youth center for troubled youths. You have a meeting with ABC’s CEO today (Student A). Try to convince him to donate money to help build the center.
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Ethics Discussion
Background: A negative right is a right against interference. It prevents the violation of the rights you already have as a person. Examples include the right against being harmed, the right to exist, etc. A positive right is something you have the right to be provided, e.g. access to education, social welfare payments, etc. Now, with your partner, consider the below dilemmas and discuss the related questions.
Situation #1 – You come across an injured man on the side of the road. You are in a rush. He begs you to stop and help him. He is bleeding. If you don’t help him, he says he might die.
What would you do in this situation?
If you do not help the man and he dies, have you done something morally wrong? Should you be punished?
Situation #2 – Your business is operating in a developing country. It is making a profit and not harming the local people. The local people live in extreme poverty. Hundreds die daily.
Is not harming (or interfering with the negative rights of) enough?
Do businesses have a positive obligation to help the public? Would not helping the locals be a crime?
Is this situation the same as situation #1?
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan: Debate 3
Student A: You are a rich American. Your country was founded on the hard work of entrepreneurs who worked hard to make their money. You believe in the free market system that rewards people for their merit instead of punishing them with high taxation and government interference through regulation. Try to think of other reasons to support your position. Student B will start the conversation.
Student B: You are anti-big business. Corporations are essentially psychopaths—they act selfishly without concern for others (e.g. society or the environment). Explain to Student A (a rich American) why corporations need heavy regulation and taxation to protect the public good. (You may take a minute to prepare.)
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan : Pair Work
With a partner, discuss how CSR can be integrated into the below areas of a business. When finished, present your ideas to the class.
– Risk Management
– Marketing / P.R.
Advanced CSR ESL Lesson Plan : Discussion Questions
(Write your answers in the Comments section below if you wish)
1) Are the successes of a community and its businesses interdependent?
2) Ethical consumerism – is it the answer? What are its limits?
3) What CSR programs does your company have, if any?
Lesson plan copyright Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com
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