Have you ever asked yourself why we do what we do day after day? This question might seem somewhat philosophical and it very well may be.
Normally we do things in a daily basis, we do them because we have the obligation to do them, they were imposed; because we committed ourselves to doing them, or because we have the conviction to do them.
On a reunion in which I participated a while back, one of the attendees commented that along our lives, we encounter three types of people; the people that do things in a mechanical manner, the people that say and do as they said they would, and the people who think, say and do the things they thought about. Reflecting on this comment, I realize that most of the daily actions are done in a mechanical manner or because of conventionalism. A smaller percentage are those in which people do what they said they would do, and of course and sadly, the actions that are done the least often are the product of what the person though and said that he or she would do. These last actions are the result of an attitude that could be thought of as normal or expected by everyone, and is known as congruence. The person, from who I heard this reflection from, would say that we would be truly lucky if by the end of our lives, we could have found some of these last type of people. For good or bad, congruence (in its purest sense, where we find someone who thinks, speaks and does the same) is not something we can touch, as the thoughts are intangible that are only sanctioned by our conscience.
As I was commenting a few lines back, our actions have distinct motivations. We do or not do certain things because the law imposes. We know that if we commit a crime (homicide, theft, fraud, tax evasion, etc.), we will get a punishment as a result; so our motivation is to avoid punishment. In this same way the ones who are parents, the law imposes an obligation on us to look after the wellbeing of our children, which is why we provide them an education, clothing and food. In other occasions, what motivates us to act is convenience or economic or social commitment. An example of this is when we celebrate some type of contract from which we will have a benefit. In a social convenience context, we find who do certain things to gain the approval from others, such as having a gesture for someone or attending political, social or event religious events. Finally, we have the motivation to do certain actions that are only based on our own conviction, values and principles; these actions reveal our true essence and human feeling.
The topic of social responsibility is linked to those actions that we do as a result of congruence; in which we act as a product of a reflection that is linked to our principles and moral values. Normally, we become “socially responsible” when we acquire a certain degree of maturity and we identify various irregular circumstances, vices, abuses and irresponsible actions that go against our perception of what is correct and desirable, not just to us, but for our society.
These feelings that move us to find the balance of the actions that we perceive as incorrect, go beyond the norms established by institutions (laws); they are gaps that haven’t been filled by legislators yet, either because society as a whole has not been capable of considering the action or negligence as “irregular”, because the material and /or technical means for implementing actions that minimize or invalidate such incorrect actions do not exist. This is how self-imposed attitude norms that go in hand with our moral values and principles that permit or limit us from doing certain activities that influence the environment and society originate.
In these last few lines we have gone into the field of “social responsibility”; with the understanding that it is a sum of attitude norms imposed by a person or institution, that are not obligatory nor sanctioned by any other thing than our own ethical and moral code; this norms are also known as “self-regulating”. When we as individuals self-regulate and set moral codes that go beyond the imposed rules by third parties, we tend to extend those norms to other aspects of our influence, and little by little, we expect other people or institutions to act within similar ethical levels to our own. This is how we become “environmentalists”, “humanitarians”, “philanthropists”, “philosophers” o whatever title or current we can think of. The essential requisite that must exists in a “self-imposed” conduct to be considered as “socially responsible”, is that it must be beneficial to society.
In a particular manner, as human beings mature, we involve ourselves in organizations that share our values, either with a non-governmental organization, working at a corporation that is committed with causes that we believe in (environment, philanthropy, respect, etc.); and even through the investment of our savings on those institutions that share our values.
The “social responsibility” implemented by corporations is also referred to as “corporate social responsibility”; these policies are the result of the reflection of members and directors, and have the goal of giving balance to the enterprise’s actions perceived as incorrect. These self-imposed rules can be something that the members propose since the formation of the corporation, or can be the result of acquired policies to correct the vice that is generated from irresponsible actions. In a way, the goal is to improve the surroundings (environmental, social, economic, health, etc.) and the interrelation with people. So it is us, who can approve or condemn businesses and corporations who don’t have “corporate social responsibility” through our involvement in them or through our rejection, working with them or not, purchasing their products or investing in their stock, or not.
“Corporate Social Responsibility” has, in many occasions, obstacles the keep it from popularizing and globalizing; for it is though that these enterprises has the carrying out of their members’ interests as the only goal. We observe that in third world countries, there is a reluctance to adopt social responsibility policies, as there is an inference that large corporations have behaved in a social irresponsible manner, which was how they acquired the wealth. This last argument may have some insight, as multinational corporations may have acted in an irresponsible manner to some degree; but it doesn’t necessarily mean that current day corporations can or should act under the reasoning that “the results justify the means”.
In Mexico, just like in the rest of the world, we see how society progresses with social awareness, where the impact towards our surroundings and neighbors is considered more and more. More often, we start to see how big corporations have advisory boards that promote a better diet in people, their education, respect towards the environment, and other topics. It is true that boards and foundations have a lot to do with who sponsors them. Let’s hope that these foundations and businesses achieve a greater social responsibility through education and greater commitment to an ethical code.
Let’s make the commitment so that each us become one of the people that we think, speak and act in a congruent manner; lets walk towards “social responsibility”, not a conventionalism, but as a product of a reflection that we are convinced and understand the benefits to all, surely it will take us time; all this, is a matter of principles.
Rodrigo Armada Osorio
Attorney and Principal Notary
at Notaria 3 in Ensenada, B.C.