To what extent are businesses aware of their socia

l responsibilities? Canbusinesses be environmentally responsible and still make a profit?
Businesses have always been expected to adhere to general, though ill
defined, standards of good conduct. But the idea that companies should
follow principals who might benefit society while not directly improving
their bottom line only began gaining ground in any significant way in the
1980s. Some ethical businesses make a point of caring for the environment,
others of not using child labor from the developing world, or paying more
attention to the welfare of their workers. Care for the environment has
become a major policy of many ethical businesses. Corporations are at least
openly acknowledging that they have a far wider level of responsibility to
the society as a whole. Corporate rhetoric is of course not always matched
with immediate action and some companies see going green as primarily a
marketing and public relations exercise rather than acknowledging the
Importance of integrating environmental decision making in all aspects of
business planning and operations. This position goes on to further argue
that businesses are aware of their social responsibility and can be
environmentally responsible and still make profits.

In order to understand this question better, let us first look at what is
sustainable development. Sustainable development canbedefinedas
“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their won needs” (cited in World
Commission, 1987). In other words, sustainable development is that the
basic needs of all are met and that all should have opportunity to full
fill their aspirations for a better life (cited in journal of Business
Ethics, pp157-168, 2001). According to the World Business Council for
Sustainable Development, sustainable development is the integration of
economic development with environmental protection and social equity.

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There are four levels of sustainable development efforts for businesses,
basic level of behaviour, current attainable level of behaviour, practical
level of behaviour and theoretical level of behaviour. In addition,
Business communities have largelyadoptedtheBrutlandCommission
definition of sustainable development, such as Development that meets the
needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs. While thetermEcologicallysustainable
development preferred by many environment organisations is farmore
rigorous, the relatively rapid acceptance of the concept of sustainable
development, by the corporate sector still heralds a major shift in
corporate ethics. Less than a decade ago the prevailing corporate view was
that the true and only social role of business organisations was to make
profits and obey laws.

According to Bansal (2001), states that there are advantages of sustainable
development. Firstly, it has a competitive advantage because it producing
the same output with less input, more over, it not only reduces costs but
also increases revenue. Secondly, it is reducing the risk by subscribing to
sustainable development. “while a firm may not realize immediate financial
benefits from investing in sustainable development, evidence shows that
such investment will have a favourable long term impact on financial risk”
it is also suggest actions business can take to implement sustainable
development are policy measures and process improvement.

Greater risk comes the potential for great rewards. “Enterprising companies
will find ways to capture this potential by finding innovative solution to
society’s challenges” (Day, 1998) states that constrainscanarise
suddenly, in way not expected, there is great risk in market through
innovation. Moreover, environmental justice is the fair treatment of people
of all races, cultures, and income with respect to the development,
implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and
policies, such that certain populations are not disproportionately impacted
from environmental pollution and unequal access to environmental benefits.

Furthermore, sustainable development is not enough; businesses should
concern more about innovation. Therefore, the advantages of businesses
through innovation can make transition at their own pace, without a sudden
financial burden, explore various technologies, management system and
process before making the best choice. Moreover, businesses can gain a
leadership position and can influence the form of future constrains that
might affect their business. Therefore, marketing position in the current
market can lead to new markets and new technologies.

Businesses can be environmentally responsible and still make profits can be
summed up thus: There has been a rapid shift in awareness in many kinds of
the businesses over the last few years with a shift from environmental
complacency to recognition of the need for a further rapid shift in
awareness. Over the rest of this decade, what is required is a further
rapid shift in awareness, a shift to a realisation that more fundamental
and far reaching changes are required to assure ongoing the ecological
integrity of Planet Earth. It is essential that these organisations truly
accept their fundamental responsibility towards the whole of society and
the planet.

D.M. Payne and C.A. Raiborn 2001 (July), Journal of Business Ethics: Volume
32, No. 2 pp157-168
Pratima Bansal, 2001 (Nov-Dec) Ivey Business Journal, Volume 66, pp47-52
Robert M. Day, 1998 (March), Sustainable Enterprise Perspectives, World
Resources Institute.


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