Over the last few years there has been increasing interest from the public and stakeholders about the effects business has on the environment and how businesses actually relate to society. This increased awareness is due to societies increased demand for information, which is made accessible by tools such as the Internet, and through campaigns by pioneering companies such The Body Shop. With the knowledge people glean from the internet, such as how other countries are dealing with the situation better, the publics expectation of British firms also grow.
This has lead to pressures from the public to be socially responsible, which can be expressed through consumer boycotts, ethical consumers and the costs of being irresponsible. (Boddy, 2002) Consumer boycotts reflect the active disapproval of society, as well as generating media interest that spreads the news of corporate misdemeanour. An example of this is the 1996 French boycott concerning nuclear testing issues. Ethical consumers tend to act on initiative. They alter their consumer decision making to take into account information regarding ethical issues. Therefore, if a company has been irresponsible and earned a bad reputation in this area, the business could suffer as a result.
Some consumers are also of the opinion that business has an ethical obligation. They should be socially responsible because it is the right thing to do. In addition they also have the power and resources to instigate change. This can be by doing things such as supporting public and charitable projects that need assistance or even simply trying to address social problems before they become too serious and costly to rectify.
Business perspective There are also benefits that businesses will actually gain from too. Businesses can create a favourable public image by pursuing social goals. This relates back to the fact that the public are more aware of the problems; therefore if a company is seen to be doing something to resolve these issues, they are smiled upon. A good example of a company that has a reputation for and good public image from chasing social goals is The Body Shop. The Body Shop’s mission is ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change’. (Boddy, 2002) Although the company did not set out to create a good public image, through its actions the business has benefited hugely, with no need for the usual advertising campaigns. BT also attributes a third of its image, reputation and trust to its CSR activities. (Simms, 2002)
Another benefit associated with advocating corporate social responsibility is that, according to Kobbins ; Coulter (2002) socially responsible companies tend to have more secured long-run profits and in turn, business stock prices are improved in the long run. This could be a direct effect of a company being socially responsible or it could just be that the companies that do take on the added responsibility are already doing prosperous business, without further research it is not possible to say exactly. Although, if a CSR policy promotes a good image for a company, this will generally increase interest in the business through increased sale, in store and of shares, which in turn could be reflected by the company increasing its long-run profits.
From looking at these points, it is possible to say that corporate social responsibility is a form of enlightened self-interest, but only if putting these policies into action actually created a cost for the business. As Boddy (2002) says that “enlightened self interest is the practice of acting in a way that is costly or inconvenient at present, but which is believed to be in one’s best interest in the long term.”
In conclusion, it is possible to see how CSR has become integrated into the way businesses operate. It has come as a result of businesses responding to trends concerning changing consumer expectations, opinions and sometimes pressure. In most cases, the best solution to these changes has been to introduce a CSR policy into their way of working. This also reflects businesses awareness of their different stakeholder needs and their attempts to satisfy them.
As with many new business opportunities, surely the pros and cons of integrating such a system will have been measured. For example, they are not going to set out on a new project without looking at costs they will occur, and benefits they will gain, both in the short and long term situations. So if it does in fact cost them a small amount to initiate a CSR policy, but the long-term gains are substantial – as enlightened self-interest suggest – then the organisation would be fool not to take it on. But I do not believe that this is the only reason that companies are socially responsible. Generally one of the greatest sources of feedback on new systems such as CSR is the workforce.
In fact according to Cairncross (1995), in many companies the pressure to adopt sound environmental policies came initially from the workforce. Another factor is that managers often want to have an environmental record to be proud of, and one way to go about getting one is to instigate a good CSR policy with long-term benefits for consumers, public and the business. But more often than not, I believe that businesses instigate social policies like these because they realise that they have the power to make a difference and actually want to do something. When it is partially them that are responsible for the initial need for action, it is only right that they do at least try to compensate.
Adams, R, Carruthers, J ; Hamil, S. (1991) Changing Corporate Values London: Kogan Page Ltd
Boddy, D. (2002) Management: An Introduction Europe: Prentice Hall
Cairncross, F. (1995) Green, Inc. London: Earthscan Publications Limited
Cochran, P, Trevino, L ; Weaver, G. (1999) Integrated and Decoupled Corporate Social Performance: Management Commitments, External Pressures, and Corporate Ethics Practices. Academy of Management Journal; 42; p539
Davis, J. (1994) Greening Business Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
The government can have overwhelming authority over its citizenry. However, the United States constitution has put checks and balances in place in order to ensure that in maintaining law and order, the police officers respect the rights of the populace. In other words, the constitution has set ethical boundaries that government officers are to respect when handling citizens.
Two prominent inclusions in the constitution include the first and fourth amendments. Despite their inclusions, ethical issues regarding the two keep coming up as law and the society’s sense of ethics keeps colliding.
Ethics relate to what a person should or should not do, regardless of whether such an act permissible under the law (Kraut, 2010). The fourth amendment on the other hand requires police officers suspecting a person of wrongdoing to obtain a warrant before searching and seizing the suspected person’s property (Slobogin, n.d.).
Specifically, the reasonableness clause in the amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, persons, papers and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated” (Dale and Lewis, 2009, p. 46). As has been interpreted by Slobogin (n.d.), the drafters of the fourth amendment assumed that magistrates would not approve of unjustified intrusions into people’s homes or property.
As such, the amendment requires a police officer seeking a search or seizure warrant from a magistrate to give proof that there is a ‘probable cause’. More so, the police officer seeking the warrant must indicate to the magistrate that he or she has sufficient facts to believe that the targeted person committed a crime (in case of an arrest warrant) or that the place to be searched could have evidence on contraband or crime (Hall, 2005).
In the internet age, government’s snooping of web traffic ostensibly to trace criminal activity has continuously raised much hue and cry among ethics crusaders. In its defense, Dale and Lewis (2009) notes that the government argues that without using intrusive technology, police officers and other law keeping organs in the government would stand little or no chance in detecting and convicting terrorists and other criminals using the web as their medium of communication.
The outrage that met government proposal however took a passive nature after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the U.S. thus giving way to the passage of the “USA patriotic Act and Homeland Security Act” (Dale and Lewis, 2009, p. 46).
While the outrage may have toned down after the destruction brought about the terrorist acts, ethical issues still persist to this day. For example, the use of the web-snooping computer tools by the FBI police could very well be used to violate people’s privacy. More so, it can be used to violate the freedom of speech treasured by American citizens, and even worse, the government can use it to “take over” the internet (Dale and Lewis, 2009).
This then raises the question; just how far can the rights and freedoms of the ordinary citizens as guaranteed under the fourth amendment, be forfeited for the sake of upholding national security? More so, is FBI’s police use of web-snooping tools ethical? In the criminal justice system, tracking and detaining terrorists and other people who pose a threat to the national security may be a case of the end justifying the means.
To the general population however, FBI snooping is just another unethical exercise that they may have to live with for the sake of enhancing their greater security and welfare.
The first amendment grants American citizens rights to freedom of expression and religion. More so, the amendment protects the citizenry from government interference (Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, 2010). Ethical issues relating to the first amendment and police officers do not often focus on how the latter handle their role in law enforcement.
In some cases, ethical issues may arise in determining whether the police officers do have a right to freedoms and rights provided in the first amendment. For instance, a police officer no doubt has a right to free speech. However, the mere nature of the police career may hinder individual police officers from practicing free speech for fear of facing disciplinary action, which may in cases include job termination (Scarry, 2006).
While a previous case (Pickering v. Board of Education, 1968) in the US Supreme Court established that government employees have a right to free speech as provided in the first amendment, it was established in a different case (Connick v. Myers, 1983) that a public employee can loose the right to free speech if the subject of his or her speech is motivated by personal interest and hence cannot be classified as a matter of public concern.
In Waters v. Churchill (1994), it was further established that the content of a police officer’s speech must be judged in order to verify whether it raises public concern issues, or whether it was purely a complaint made by the officer about workplace issues. In cases where the former is applicable, then the police officer’s speech could be protected by the first amendment. However, if the speech was made purely on a personal interest basis, then the police officer may have to face disciplinary action.
The ethical issue arises from the fact that such gagging of police officer may make it hard for them to reveal unethical, unprofessional, immoral and even criminal conducts that may exist in police departments. In the criminal law system, gagging the police officer may be justified by the precedent set in Kelley v. Johnson (1976). In the ruling, it was stated that employees working in law enforcement agencies need to be more loyal and disciplined when relating to their employer.
As such, they are subjected to greater 1st amendment restraints than ordinary government employees. To the general population however, muffling police officers who may want to expose the unethical, unprofessional, immoral and even criminal conducts that may exist in police departments is tantamount to a gross violation of their free speech rights as provided in the first amendment.
Ethical issues are not as clear cut as most people would want them to. The situation is even worse when ethics collides with existing laws. Often times, principles held by the society may suggest that evidence obtained by police officers even without search warrants should be used in a court case if it can help rid the society of criminal activity.
However, the courts usually use the constitution as the basis for their decision, and hence evidence obtained inappropriately through warrantless searches and seizures is in many cases deemed inadmissible in courts of law.
Regardless of the ethical issues that arise based on the collision that occurs between the society’s moral convictions and established laws, the US populace has learnt to trust the judiciary to guard their rights as provided by the constitution, while still upholding the moral fabric of the society. Whether their trust has born any benefits so far remains a debatable issue.
Connick v. Myers. (1983). Connick v. Myers (No. 81-1251) 654 F.2d 719, reversed. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0461_0138_ZS.html
Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute. (2010). First Amendment: overview. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from: http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/First_amendment
Dale, N. & Lewis, J. (2009). Computer science illuminated. Maynard, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Hall, K. L. (2005). Fourth amendment. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O184-FourthAmendment.html
Kelley v. Johnson. (1976). U.S. Supreme Court: Kelley v. Johnson, 425 U.S. 238. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/KelleyvJohnson.html
Kraut, R. (2010). Aristotle’s ethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/
Pickering v. Board of Education. (1968). Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563. First Amendment Center. Retrieved November 21, 2010 from, http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=317
Scarry, L.L. (2006). Police officers and the 1st amendment: Do you have a right to speak freely? Policeone.com. retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.policeone.com/columnists/lom/articles/1190041-Police-Officers-and-the-1st-Amendment/
Slobogin, C. (n.d). Police Procedures: historical overview, the exclusion remedy, searches and seizures, interrogation, identification procedures, undercover investigation, future challenges, Miranda. Free Legal Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://law.jrank.org/pages/18913/Police-Procedures.html
Waters v. Churchill. (1994). Waters v. Churchill (92-1450), 511 U.S. 661. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-1450.ZO.html