Businesses are organizations focused on obtaining economic benefits and, from another perspective, may be valued for their ability to generate jobs, but even this would be a diminished view of a company. Organizations cannot divorce themselves from their responsibility for the impact their decisions and activities have on society and the environment. To many, it may seem extremely complicated to take on these commitments while safeguarding the survival of the business, but this attitude also implies benefits, and some aspects for which a business may be responsible are compulsory today.
Although the obligations to adopt responsible stances are limited in the present socio-economic scenario, the aspects to be considered by entrepreneurs will surely be greater in the future, wherefore it would be a good idea to start planning how to practice corporate citizenship.
Corporate citizenship is the ethical commitment undertaken by a company or business with the objective of having a positive influence on society and on the environment, of being transparent and of rendering accounts regularly. This implies, in the first place, counteracting the adverse impacts that their decisions and activities may cause, although it is hoped that this attitude will not remain only in the sphere of responding but that it becomes a proactive stance. Businesses undertake commitments that run the gamut from fostering local and sustainable development, showing respect for others and promoting the welfare of society, to safeguarding human rights, legality and international standards. Solidifying corporate citizenship as a strategy involves, above all, that the entire organization be immersed in these objectives.
Businesses seeking to establish corporate social responsibility criteria must look out for both their external and internal environments. Internally, the organization must conduct itself properly with its officers and employees, as well as manage waste products and natural resources (raw materials, energy resources, water, etc.) responsibly. Externally, it is indispensable to maintain good relationships with suppliers, customers, competitors, the government, NGOs, etc.
Adopting a posture of social responsibility implies benefits for the business, such as enjoying a better reputation, employee loyalty and greater public trust, while at the same time generating innovation. Being committed to improving the environment may favor savings associated wit reducing waste products and recovering by-products, increasing competitiveness and the company’s profits; with respect to society, it guarantees a decrease in potential conflicts (product depreciation, noise, waste accumulation in inhabited areas, etc.)
Adopting a posture of corporate social responsibility means that the company will work in an organized fashion to attain results in this area. It is fitting, then, to specify the core subjects and issues that will need to be addressed to attain them. Pursuant to the ISO-26000 standard regarding corporate social responsibility, the following are established as core subjects: organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, respect for consumers and community involvement and development.
Successfully integrating social responsibility into businesses depends on the company understanding and applying the principles it proposes, based on the organization's acknowledging the importance of doing so. It is indispensable to identify and engage with stakeholders, as well as to integrate social responsibility throughout every sphere or characteristic of the organization. Social responsibility demands that the organization constantly review and improve its actions and practices. Results-wise, social responsibility requires being immersed in the company’s communication policies, as this entails a major improvement in the organization’s credibility.
Business entrepreneurs in Cuba must be aware of the important role they play today in guaranteeing a decent job for many Cubans, which is also an issue the government has yet to internalize, by favoring the development and support of the sector. This responsibility also entails that employees receive a fair salary and in this area, although not encompassing the generality of businesses, the non-governmental sector has an advantage. The main limitations are organizing workers at the union level, or some other form of association, that will allow them to look after their rights and call on business owners, partners and cc-op presidents to render accounts about their actions vis-à-vis employees. In this respect, not only do employees see their chances of defending their interests limited, but owners also find themselves at the mercy of circumstances of various kinds that impede a responsible stance* and, in the face of that, no sufficient organization exists to allow them to overcome and bring about a change that favors corporate social responsibility.
Stance of responsibility constitute an excellent strategy to promote business growth, development and market position. In this regard, entrepreneurship in Cuba could also play a role in these strategies, and although it is not favored by present laws, the fundaments of corporate citizenship can promote the success and development of many businesses. In general, addressing the venture's relationship with suppliers, workers, customers or consumers, and the business environment, from a corporate citizenship standpoint is useful from every point of view in the national context.
Maintaining appropriate relationships with workers (fair wages, listening to their demands and awareness of the business's decisions) fosters a productive work climate, which translates into integration, a sense of belonging, creativity and efficiency. Although many businesses are forced to pay wages that do not cover their workers’ every need, they must aim to pay a fair amount in relation to the earnings the venture receives and, further, they should keep employees abreast of major decisions.
Every effort must be made to elevate the business's relationship with customers and suppliers to a higher plane by gaining their loyalty, which will thus guarantee the company's better operation. Following corporate social responsibility criteria may foster this relationship, especially when one of the problems faced by entrepreneurs today is being able to stabilize a reliable source of raw materials that is sustainable over time. On the other hand, the boom in new businesses, although not comparable to other market economy regions, has exacerbated competition and has increased the range of options for customers, placing more importance on being customer-focused, respecting his rights and ensuring the quality of the product or service.
The business milieu, which includes the environment and the community in particular, is an important sphere where businesses can have a favorable impact. Businesses today must understand that environmental responsibility and social support generate philanthropic results, which translate into prestige and status but also bring material benefits and efficiency to the extent that production waste materials are reutilized, the use of water and energy is optimized, etc. Along different lines, promoting local development or encouraging new ventures drives an increase in reasons for attracting customers or consumers, thereby also benefiting the business. As a bonus, being involved with protection of the environment, training, support of vulnerable groups (the elderly, the unemployed, single mothers, etc.), local development, etc., allows the business venture to improve its relationship with different institutions and government entities at different levels. Thus, responsibility in terms of commitment to the environment, the community and development is a winning wager for businesses and is, above all, an important pillar for prestige and status.
Seeking corporate social commitment is a major part of the makeup of a modern company, and is the strategy used by a great number of them. Actively engaging in environmental protection and community development is essential for business prestige. Although tax laws in Cuba do not yet favor those who adopt these postures, it is gratifying for those entrepreneurs who adopt these strategies to know that being socially responsible makes them better citizens and that current experiences show an increase in profits.
*The non-existence of a wholesale market precludes affordable prices due to the high cost of products in retail markets, and purchasing from third parties limits the possibility of implementing traceability of raw materials. Deductible expenses for annual individual income tax return are limited and in no case or percentage do they contemplate the work done by the entrepreneur for the good of society, to which must be added the high tax rates.
- ISO 26000,
- ISO Guide 64, Guide for addressing environmental issues in product standards
- McGregor, Douglas (1981). El lado humano de la empresa, en Conceptos de comportamiento administrativo, Mexico, Ediciones contables y administrativas.
- United Nations (UN): Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): OECD Recommendation on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress, 2007
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): OECD Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce, 1999
- International Labor Organization (ILO): R102 Welfare Facilities Recommendation, 1956
- International Labor Organization (ILO): C158 Termination of Employment Convention, 1982
- International Labor Organization (ILO): C102 Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (Part VIII, Articles 46-52)
- Schein, E., (1982). Psicología de la organización, Mexico, Prentice Hall.
- Simon, Herbert A. (1978). El comportamiento administrativo. Buenos Aires, Argentina, Editorial Aguilar.