Author Soraya Carvajal B., April 9 2014: On the day "Activism RSC [CRS - corporate social responsibility]", convened by the ICEI [Instituto Complutense de Estudios Intercionales, Madrid, Spain], it was stressed that the RSC/RSE [business social responsibility] requires a paradigm shift, having to do with consumers and an enlightened society, passing an excess of volunteerism, a raw material, to the management of impacts, like providing itself with its own governance structure, in order to gain legitimacy.
At the event, Francisco Cervera, economist and volunteer for Economists Without Borders, said the RSC/RSE has been captured by the neoliberal ideology and, in general terms, has only dressed business action in the RSC costume. "We have come to the RSC from the packaging, it is very important how we present the discourse, the ideas, but without making it too profound."
This professional also said that to change the current situation, it is necessary to democratize the governance of companies - that civil society be involved in RSC so that there can be changing attitudes focused on resistance and on generating a RSC critique that questions everything and contributes to building a better society.
Susana Ruiz, Head of Oxfam Economic Justice, said that although businesses are a factor of development, this development cannot be at any cost; it must have a clear vision of the social impacts on human rights, on issues regarding environmental as much as on economic contribution. For this Oxfam representative, a social model needs to be constructed from the economic model; ..."there can be no fiscal responsibility without social responsibility,...this is a key element of behavior and engagement of business with the societies in all countries where they operate."
Ruiz also made clear that the controlling interest in the companies is to maximize returns in order to face shareholders; and, thus, cases exist where companies exploit fissures in the international systems and administrative structures created "for the sole purpose of reducing given their tax contribution in the countries where they operate", so as not to contribute taxes in countries where they have their parent company, nor in those where they operate. In this situation, the NGO [non-governmental organisation] representative noted that companies typically argue that such actions are legal "and the discussion between legality, morality and responsibility concerns us because it is true that we can not ensure that all such practices are illegal, but if there is a gray area of difficulty, we can talk about corporate responsibility."
For this representation of the social sector, generating cultural change in these companies implies that they understand that fiscal responsibility forms part of their integrity, their commitment to society. "Companies need to provide clear and transparent information on fiscal policy and to create corporate structures closer to the real economy."
According to Ruiz, among the challenges facing Oxfam for the business sector to understand a social model built from the perspective of economic justice, it is necessary: to pass from social action to economic commitment; to overcome the difficult access to information on companies, due to fears about the use that will be given to it; to achieve greater presence and impact in the media; to denounce and make visible the practices of companies; and to have the business sector recognize the legitimacy of social organizations' involvement in this dialogue.
For Yolanda Román, Manager of Public Affairs Inforpress, RSC is a tool for the management of public affairs of the companies, how the company exercises its political responsibility in the broadest sense.
According to Román, RSC work involves the strategic decision to work from the philosophy of dialogue in a social space that is increasingly complex, looking for where the public interest lies, in order to obtain a common interest.
"We must assume that the dialogue and working together with other organizations is inevitable, it is necessary to have adequate profiles for trading, negotiating with actors who can exercise the work of building bridges, those who have the ability to interpret different languages and narratives," said Roman, for whom, in the future, initiatives that have real impact will be those that develop from bold alliance, "from new alliances intent on building, never on confrontation."
Accomplices Or Change Agents?
Meanwhile, Juan Villamayor, Director of Business with Common Sense, and one of the initiators of the first code of conduct of these professionals, said that among the responsibilities of the consultant in CSR/CSR are working for companies that might be permeable to criticism on incorporating this kind of critique to change their actions and to contribute to a paradigm shift, building a new paradigm that is committed to a sustainable and responsible way of doing business.
According to Villamayor, the consultant is an agent of change, given the current crisis of confidence in corporations, banks, unions, politicians, high state institutions, etc., who has seen his ability of influencing as limited.
The manager believes that, in order to influence businesses and their way of doing business, the consultant should provide critical insight to companies, challenging them to think differently and teaching them to be empathetic, along with knowing their stakeholders and having ethical conduct.
To Villamayor the role of the consultant is to empower the business, "not to make memos for companies without CSR, but rather the consultants must have an ethical commitment to contribute to the common good."
This consultant also said that companies have impacts and should be responsible not only for those negative impacts, but for increasing the positive impacts. "The issue of accountability is very important and the consultant should be responsible, critical and act as a bridge between business and society, considering that the common good is our purpose and our actions determine how CSR will work out."
And it is the critical positions towards CSR on the part of citizens, also demonstrated at the event and in this sense , Vicente Santiago, university professor, said that "CSR sells smoke, it is not how it manifests itself, especially when banks that are responsible for the crisis of CSR speak without assuming their guilt, their responsibility, and without even self-criticism (...) It has to be legislated, but Spain is a country where legislation is not carried out, and I think what is important, in addition to legislating, is that it is carried out, controlled, and penalized. In addition, an education system that is focused on the formation of citizens, not consumers," is required.
This is the second part of a two-part series begun here.
Translated from the Spanish on the icuestiona website.