Social Responsibility of the Consumers
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Social Responsibility of Consumers
First, it is important to define what social responsibility entails so that we can understand the role a consumer plays in the business organizational structures as a socially responsible agent. Although different institutions and scholars have come up with various definitions for the term “social responsibility”, they all have a similar meaning, or they share the same perspective. For instance, according to the International Standards for Organizations (ISO), social responsibility involves developing businesses while maintaining positive relationships with the environment and the society in which they operate. In other words, doing business while acting socially responsible means, focusing on making profits while at the same time, reducing the harm the business activities pose to the society and the environment in which it operates (Rose, 2013).
Winston Churchill, who was a great leader for Great Britain during the Second World War, had some comments on political, economic and social responsibility of businesses. He stated that people and organizations fulfill the role of social responsibility when they operate ethically and become sensitive toward cultural, social and environmental matters. He added that acting socially responsible assists organizations, individuals and governments to develop the society and business in a positive way, in order to achieve positive contributions as the end results (Hill & Langan, 2014).
Bearing that in mind, the paper will attempt to describe three issues the consumers can practice to ensure they fulfill their role of social responsibility. The paper also attempts to explain why spending money by some consumers on products and services offered by the companies, is not an excuse enough for them not to act socially responsible.
The Consumer Purchase Behavior
In “Morality and the Market: Consumer Pressure for Corporate Accountability”, N. Craig Smith who is the author of the book, explains that consumers’ sovereignty can provide social control of how the business operates. From Smith’s view, consumer sovereignty involves the effect of the consumer free choice on the goods and services offered by firms and their power to control the marketplace behavior of the business organizations. The author focuses on the ethical purchase behavior of consumers as a form of controlling the ethical practices of the business enterprises. Further, Smith limits the social ethical sovereignty of the consumers to what he refers as a “pressurized-group-organized consumer boycott” (Smith, 2007).
He explains that if a business organization is acting unethical, the consumers will decline to buy its product. In addition, the consumers will inform the business organization that they are not going to buy their product so they can identify the practices and policies which are considered unethical. In response, the organization identifies the policies and practices that are unethical. An excellent support of this consideration has been by the view of the market functions. The roles and the tactics of the pressure groups in the markets influence the ethical behaviors of the firms by ensuring that they act socially and environmentally responsible. For example, there was the Greenpeace inspired boycott of Shell Company after it attempted to dispose of Brenda spar oil in the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, there was a 50 percent decline in sales for the company, and the consumers demanded the company to reduce its environmental harm. Shell responded by abandoning the disposal of Brenda spar oil (Smith, 2007).
Individual Social Responsibility (ISR)
The Workshop for Civil Initiatives Foundation (WCIF) describes ISR as the responsibility of each individual where he lives, by actively participating in solving the problems affecting the community. Under the community, the consumers understand the village, the residential complex in the city and the problems associated with buying products that cause harm to the environment. As such, consumers can take the initiative to develop the community by, for example, cleaning up plastic bags and other packaging material of goods which do not decay (Rose, 2013).
As part of the consumers’ social responsibility, it is important that they check the quality of the products they buy and not just whether or not they are environmental friendly. For instance, some companies can be producing goods which have combination of chemicals and the original raw materials. Such products can cause harm to the users. As such, it is the responsibility of the consumers to identify whether the companies making such products adhere to some standards. For example, some products such as cotton fabrics can be grown chemically or organically; therefore, it is important for the consumer to check that such products are certified by identified test and certification systems such as the Donoghue. Such systems can help the consumers to ensure the companies operate under ethical practices by ensuring fair trade (Rose, 2013).
However, some consumers believe that just because they pay money for goods and services from business enterprises, they should therefore not play a part by acting socially responsible. Such a notion is not correct because there is an increasing global consciousness for not only what we buy and consume, but also, how these goods are produced. For instance, there are environmental harmful productions, dangerous working environments, child-labor and other working conditions which violate the human rights and, are being practiced by organizations. As business organizations focus on the long-term profitability, there a need for the credibility of these companies by ensuring their business activities conform to the norms of what is right and wrong. Therefore, the consumers are part of the stakeholders of the business organizations that should ensure the products and the services they consume are produced according to the ethical practices (Hill & Langan, 2014).
Hill, R.P., & Langan, R. (2014). Handbook of research on marketing and corporate social
responsibility. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing
Rose, L.L. (2013). 5 ways consumers can be more socially conscious in shopping. Global News.
Retrieved from: http://globalnews.ca/news/513672/5-ways-consumers-can-be-more-socially-conscious-in-shopping/Smith, N.C. (2007). Consumers as Drivers of Corporate Responsibility. London Business School.
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