Social Responsability: More than Good Intentions

By José Carlos Vázquez Parra
jcvazquezp@itesm.mx

Until recently, a very narrow view existed of corporate social responsibility or CSR. It was perceived as a practice that focused on two spheres of activity: 1) environmental protection and renewable energy development, and 2) primarily philanthropic social support. In 2000, the UN signed the Global Compact, defining the millennium goals and creating a watershed by determining that social responsibility should be considered as an obligation not only for governments and transnational firms, but also for organizations: in this way, non-governmental organizations, such as universities, municipalities, subdivisions, etc., are also included as part of this movement.

A socially responsible business channels its economic activity and organizational goals toward generating economic-financial, ethical, social and environmental shared value, with results that are relevant for all its stakeholders. Contemporary business activity cannot be understood as the attainment of gains in the short term, but as a service that organizations should render for the society to which they belong.  

From this perspective, social responsibility (SR) becomes a topic of general interest for everyone who forms part of one of these organizations. Thus, promoting sustainable development is an objective that calls for the joint action of all the members of society, at every level of action, from local to global arenas.

As a result, teaching SR in academic settings has become crucial, and is consolidated by the relationship existing between this topic and the profile of the millennials who have recently joined the workforce in organizations.

Diverse authors have conducted extensive research on profiling millennials and have found that the topic of SR in particular plays a decisive role when choosing a job. Millennials typically have a strong desire to serve in their communities, not only seeking to understand the issues that afflict the world and society, but also find out how they can support such causes.

Therefore, millennials’ first choice for employment will be companies that share their values, where they will do their utmost to participate in the causes supported by these organizations. The new generations demand that educational institutions address this subject matter, since their academic interests are different from those of past generations.

Millennials typically have a strong desire to serve in their communities, to understand the problems that afflict the world and society, and find out how they can support such causes.

Aware of the social requirements and expectations of the new generations, national and international academics are paying greater attention to the topic of corporate social responsibility. They recognize that universities play a decisive role in what future professionals will value as relevant when founding or forming part of an organization. The topics of social responsibility, professional ethics, and new business and company models are being taken very seriously in the preparation of future professionals.

Universities play a decisive role in what future professionals will value as relevant when founding or forming part of an organization.

In Fall 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the XXI International Congress on Accounting, Management and Information Technologies in Mexico City. In their presentations, the speakers made it quite clear that social responsibility does not refer to vague, nebulous or well-meaning philanthropic practices, but rather a commitment that affects everyone who forms part of industries and academia. Participating in this forum gave me a clearer picture of universities’ interest in the academic preparation of our country’s future citizens and entrepreneurs.

SR is no longer taught as a merely theoretical topic, but has become an opportunity for putting into practice knowledge of professional ethics. The course I teach, Professional Ethics and Citizenship, still includes a section on theory, but now mostly focuses on developing an ethical competence, by means of the acquisition of specific sub-competencies, such as moral judgement, autonomy and integrity. To achieve this, students learn to use tools that not only impact the proper development of their professional careers, but also offer them the opportunity to acquire elements to support companies in SR measurement and certification processes.

During this course, I use a variety of pedagogical approaches, such as multidisciplinary teamwork and ethical dilemma analysis, using the case method and project-based learning, taking into consideration that each group has its own characteristics and, as teachers, we need to be sufficiently versatile to reach the desired objectives.

SR, does not refer to vague, nebulous or well-meaning philanthropic practices, but rather a commitment that affects everyone who forms part of industries and academia.

Knowledge assessment is performed on the basis of two components: the formulation of a portfolio, in which students include the products generated during the semester, and a qualitative evaluation, that allows us to determine the level achieved in the proposed sub-competencies. The primordial aim of these assessment components is not only for students to gain sufficient knowledge of professional ethics concepts, but also to offer them the possibility of developing proposals to improve companies’ SR areas.

In addition, students learn about topics related to ISO 26000 (Social Responsibility), including human rights, gender equality, environmental integrity and labor practices. To complement the learning process, students write an individual essay on the topics being analyzed across this course, which enables us to determine the actual degree of reflection reached.

It is important to remember that the young people currently studying in our classrooms are the professionals who will be responsible for the societies of tomorrow, so the type of leaders who will be running the world depends on us. Society needs a new generation of leaders who are capable of defining concrete actions, policies and programs and who are clearly committed to its advancement. Nowadays, we cannot focus on the short-term consequences of our actions, since even though generations change, the world is still one and everyone must be held accountable for assuring that it is habitable and inclusive for all of us who live here.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

José Carlos Vázquez Parra has a Ph.D. in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis on Ethics. He is a teacher at the Humanistic and Citizen Training at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara. Member of the National System of Researchers.