Social Audit and Social Responsibility of Business

Social Audit

A social audit is a formal review of a company’s endeavors in social responsibility. A social audit looks at factors such as a company’s record of charitable giving, volunteer activity, energy use, transparency, work environment, and worker pay and benefits, to evaluate what kind of social and environmental impact a company is having in the locations where it operates.

Social audits are optional. Companies can choose whether to perform them and whether to release the results publicly or only use them internally.

A social audit is an internal examination of how a particular business is affecting a society. It serves as a way for a business to see if the actions being taken are being positively or negatively received and relates that information to the company’s overall public image.

A social audit examines issues regarding internal practices or policies and how they affect the identified society. The activities included tend to pertain to the concepts of social responsibility. This can include activities affecting the financial stability of a region, any environmental impact resulting from standard operations and issues of transparency in reporting.

There is no standard regarding what must be considered as the society during the audit. This allows a business to expand or contract the scope based on its goals. While one company may wish to understand the impact it has on a small-scale society, such as a particular city, others may choose to expand the range to include an entire state, country or the world as a whole.

Social Responsibility of Business

Social responsibility of business implies the obligations of the management of a business enterprise to protect the interests of the society.

According to the concept of social responsibility the objective of managers for taking business decisions is not merely to maximize profits or sharehold­ers’ value but also to serve and protect the interests of other members of a society such as workers, consumers and the community as a whole.

Thus, Sachar Committee on Companies and MRTP Acts appointed by Government of India states, “In the development of corporate ethics we have reached a stage where the question of social responsibility of business to the community can no longer be scoffed at or taken lightly. In the environment of modern corporate economic development, the corporate sector no longer functions in isolation. If the plea of the companies that they are perform­ing a social purpose is to be accepted, it can only be judged by the test of social responsiveness shown to the needs of the society”.

But in today’s world the interest of other stakehold­ers, community and environment must be protected and promoted. Social responsibility of business enterprises to the various stakeholders and society in general is considered to be the result of a social. Responsibility of Business Enterprises towards Stakeholders and Society in General contract.

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Social contract is a set of rules that defines the agreed interrelationship between various elements of a society. The social contract often involves a quid pro quo (i.e. something given in exchange for another). In the social contract, one party to the contract gives something and expects a certain thing or behaviour pattern from the other.

In the present context the social contract is concerned with the relationship of a business enterprise with various stakeholders such as shareholders, employees, consumers, government and society in general. The business enterprises happen to have resources because society consisting of various stakeholders has given them this right and therefore it expects from them to use them to for serving the interests of all of them.

Though all stakehold­ers including the society in general are affected by the business activities of a corporate enterprise, managers may not acknowledge responsibility to them. Social responsibility of business implies that corporate managers must promote the interests of all stakeholders not merely of shareholders who happen to be the so called owners of the business enterprises.

1. Responsibility to Shareholders

In the context of good corporate governance, a corporate enterprise must recognise the rights of shareholders and protect their interests. It should respect shareholders’ right to information and respect their right to submit proposals to vote and to ask questions at the annual general body meeting.

The corporate enterprise should observe the best code of conduct in its dealings with the shareholders. However, the corporate Board and management try to increase profits or shareholders’ value but in pursuing this objective, they should protect the interests of employees, consumers and other stakeholders. Its special responsibility is that in its efforts to increase profits or shareholders’ value it should not pollute the environment.

2. Responsibility to Employees

The success of a business enterprise depends to a large extent on the morale of its employees. Employees make valuable contribution to the activities of a business organization. The corporate enterprise should have good and fair employment practices and industrial relations to enhance its productivity. It must recognise the rights of workers or employees to freedom of association and free collective bargaining. Besides, it should not discriminate between various employees.

The most important responsibility of a corporate enterprise towards employees is the payment of fair wages to them and provides healthy and good working conditions. The business enterprises should recognise the need for providing essential labour welfare activities to their employees, especially they should take care of women workers. Besides, the enterprises should make arrange­ments for proper training and education of the workers to enhance their skills.

However, it may be noted that very few companies in India follow many of the above good practices. While the captains of Indian industries generally complain about low productivity of their employees, little has been done to address their problems. Ajith Nivard Cabraal rightly writes, “It should perhaps be realised that corporations can only be as effective and efficient as its employees and therefore steps should be taken to implement such reforms in a pro-active manner, rather than merely attempting to comply with many labour laws that prevail in the country. This is probably one area where good governance practices could make a significant impact on the country’s business environment.”

3. Responsibility to Consumers:

Some economists think that consumer is a king who directs the business enterprises to produce goods and services to satisfy his wants. However, in the modern times this may not be strictly true but the companies must acknowledge their responsibilities to protect their interests in undertaking their productive activities.

Invoking the notion of social contract, the management expert Peter Drucker observes, “The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment. To meet the wants and needs of a consumer, the society entrusts wealth-producing resources to the business enterprise”. In view of above, the business enterprises should recognise the rights of consumers and under­stand their needs and wants and produce goods or services accordingly.

The following responsibilities of business enterprises to consumers are worth mentioning:

  1. They should supply goods or services to the consumers at reasonable prices and do not try to exploit them by forming cartels. This is more relevant in case of business enterprises producing essential goods such as life-saving drugs, vegetable oil and essential’ services such as electricity supply and telephone services.
  2. They should not supply to the consumers’ shoddy and unsafe products which may do harm to them.
  3. They should provide the consumers the required after-sales services.
  4. They should not misinform the consumers through inappropriate and misleading advertise­ments.
  5. They should make arrangements for proper distribution system of their products so as to ensure that black-marketing and profiteering by traders do not occur.
  6. They should acknowledge the rights of consumers to be heard and take necessary measures to redress their genuine grievances.

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