Corporate Social Responsibility. Microsoft

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Abstract

With global changes regarding business trends, corporations are facing challenges every day. However, CSR arena has become the ground through which corporations are battling it out in terms of capturing the consumer’s attention. Large corporations like Microsoft have used CSR effectively and reached out to the needy. However, some critics believe that there is more to corporations incorporating CSR. Is it true that there is a bigger catch to CSR than there is in helping the community and if there is how has Microsoft benefited from its engagements in community participation and which can be generalized to the rest of the corporations? The paper therefore is a review of Corporate Social Responsibility, the rationale behind corporations in social responsibility and the reasons as to why corporations engage in social responsibilities together with a conclusion.

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Introduction

Questions range as to why large corporations would feel philanthropic and engage in social responsibilities. It is commonly argued that corporations have a social responsibility to society through the corporation itself as the moral agent through whom social responsibilities are practiced. Though morals are practiced by human beings, the corporation has social responsibility to the community via its employees. Social responsibility to the company is placed at the mandate of the employees who are to make the corporation moral (Danley, 1991). Corporations that do not practice social responsibilities fail to serve the same society it expects to sell their products to. However, this does not answer the questions as to why corporations would engage in community activities in a bid to reach out to the disadvantaged in the society and still stay within the rules of the game of many corporations that is of making profits. Why then do corporations operate corporation’s social responsibilities departments?

Partnership between Microsoft and UNHCR

The partnership between Microsoft and UHNCR is justifiable and a good opportunity for the giant corporation to give back to the society although one would wonder why a giant corporation the likes Microsoft would not want to give back in times of need to the same society it takes from. I agree that the partnership helped smooth negative perceptions of the public towards the corporation. In addition, how would Microsoft think of diversifying to other countries especially third world countries if it cannot help the same countries it is diversifying to cope with difficult times. We ought to reflect that corporations exist to improve the lives of the people it serves not only in the products it manufactures but also in engaging in community activities (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008). With regard to operating in different environments and cultures, then we cannot expect a corporation to be oblivious to its surroundings not necessarily in terms of the products it produces but to the people its serves. With this said and done, CSR is evaluated regarding Microsoft Corporation. If an individual can make a difference and a humanitarian organization that is totally reliable on donor funds, it would be lame to say that the partnership between Microsoft and UNHCR should not exist. In the world of business, corporations are thought to be separate entities and even DeGeorge argues that they are the moral agents through which employees of the corporations are able to give back to the society and therefore the partnership was the right approach for Microsoft to adopt.

However, I do not think that a company should leverage all its assets in order to contribute to pro bono. We have got to get the difference between Microsoft and UNHCR. The former is a business enterprise in search of selling its products and making a profit but with an ethical side of wanting to help society while the latter is a humanitarian organization with a totally different mission from the former. To conclude it all, I would say that corporations the likes Microsoft have to balance between their social responsibilities and their sole reason for existence that is of making profits. Thus am for the idea that corporations cannot leverage all their assets to participate in pro bono activities.

Microsoft Corporation is no exception in helping out disadvantaged communities in its partnerships with UNHCR in the efforts of reaching out to refugees (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008). Corporations are realizing that with each passing day, they cannot turn a blind eye to the needy people on top of their quests for making profits. We all live in diverse cultures and perhaps the answer to corporate social responsibilities lies in the context in which the corporations operate. However one thing is very clear to all corporations of the 21 century, that they cannot escape social responsibilities.

Rationale for Partnership

Microsoft is entering into the right partnerships to complement its market opening and raising opportunities. Corporations are realizing that in the business world, the customer stands out to be the number one priority all other factors of the company held constant for instance other company’s missions and objectives (Deresky, 1997). The customer is the most vital instrument that a company should possess and what better way than to rub his or her ego and do them good through CSR? Without the customer, corporations including the large ones would cease to exist. Corporations’ relations with the customer are therefore enhanced through CSR. In addition, CSR helps corporations in achieving their mission for instance; Microsoft helps the needy in Kosovo by providing computers that help record the refugee’s data and therefore give them identity. Through this Microsoft engaged in an activity that is in line with its line of operations (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008).

I would further add to the point by highlighting that at the time Microsoft was forming the partnership and launched its Project PROFILE, it only had 31, 575 employees and a revenue of only 19.75 billion. However, through the humanitarian initiatives by Microsoft, the corporation employed more people to a total of 71, 172 and had a net income of 44.28 billion. With these statistics, we cannot discredit Microsoft for forming such partnerships (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008).

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The consumer is the number one priority and therefore has shifted from their proverbial advertising, branding of the corporation’s products and packaging to engaging in corporate social responsibilities. More and more corporations are taking part in community activities and in turn sensitizing people of their products. Critics have always argued that even though corporations are getting in touch with their moral side, they stand a greater chance of benefitting in the long run.

There have been critics as to the whole issue of corporations engaging in social responsibility with the argument leaning on the fact that the corporations which engage in CSR benefit more than the ones which only operate for the sole reason of making profits. Can this be said to be true in view of Microsoft Corporation? Well, we cannot deny the fact that morally sensitive corporations like Microsoft are benefiting in more than one way. For instance, Microsoft has always been accused of stepping on other smaller companies in the computing business because they are the giants and therefore perceived negatively by the public. Corporate social responsibility provides an avenue through which corporations can soothe the public in its image. CSR allows the corporation to convince the public that it’s not only interested in making profits but also in improving their welfare. Thus, through CSR, negative and commonly held beliefs of the company are smoothed out (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008).

CSR allows employees to engage in activities that are geared towards helping the needy and therefore helps in improving the lives of the employees in addition to improving the image of the company. For instance, in the case study, it is reported that Microsoft employees were having lunch while watching the 1999 Kosovo crisis and they immediately started to think of ways through which they could help make the lives of the disadvantaged better. Fortunately the Jean-Phillippe Courtois was also reading from the same script and also thinking of ways to help the needy in the society (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008). Therefore, through CSR, we get in touch with our sensitive side as employees and the corporations provide the grounds or the base point in which we are able to offer our help to those we need it and we ultimately feel satisfied with ourselves.

According to Helen Deresky, the world is changing at a first pace for all corporations whether small or large like Microsoft. Helen talks about the competitive strategies that corporations are employing to capture the attention of the consumer and thus CSR is one of them. Corporations are winning the hearts of the consumers by giving back to the society (Deresky, 1997). Aligning to Helen’s view of thought, another critic of immoral companies (companies without ethics) De George, argues that companies have to be socially responsible through defining their roles to the employees and the employees should carry the moral responsibility of the company through treating the customer well (Danley, 1991). In addition to these views, the current trends in the corporate world have shifted from organizations feeling philanthropic in charitable events to the organizations identifying the really needy communities and helping them out through the projects like the partnership of Microsoft with UNHCR. It is therefore a means through which corporations show that there are aware of the employee’s specific needs and are aware of the surroundings rather than the proverbial philanthropy whereby corporations would donate for the sake of donations.

In accordance with Helen’s thought, corporations need to change their strategies to reflect the different cultures that they operate in (Deresky, 1997). We may ask questions as to how this is relevant in large corporations like Microsoft. The answer lies in the long-term strategies of the company by simply running over the short-term strategies. For instance, through Microsoft providing the technology needed to register the Kosovo refugees in camps, the company marketed its products to the people in such a way that later on in future people would prefer Microsoft products to its competitor’s products. To Helen, these are the strategies that corporations need to survive and excel in different environments and who can then blame these corporations for becoming giant corporations when such tactics have been used?

Lunchtime Initiative

The lunchtime initiative can be regarded as an initiative that showed Microsoft as a corporation with the ability to serve the diverse community with challenging needs both internal and external. To support my point employees felt that they could do something to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and so did one of the CEOs. It is no coincidence that the employees and Jean-Phillippe Courtois thought of the same thing but because they knew Microsoft had the capability and the manpower to make a difference.

Corporate Citizenship Initiatives

It is also not a coincidence that the company’s share value fell at the time that the corporate citizenship initiatives were being formed. Microsoft was always accused of stepping on the smaller corporations in the same computing fields and therefore the anti-trust cases multiplied tainting the image of the corporation and making the company’s share fall. In addition, not so many people trusted that Microsoft did not have a hidden agenda in engaging in citizenship initiatives. Therefore, this shows that a company cannot make corporate citizenship initiatives as investments in the future the reason being that the corporation being a profit-making organization cannot rely on citizenships initiatives for its drive for profits but can only rather use citizenship initiatives as a tool to reach out to the consumer and to give back to the community. In addition, giant corporations the likes of Microsoft are where they are today not because they are humanitarian organizations but because they are able to balance between their quests for making profits and their ability to do good and that includes reaching out to the needy people like the case of Kosovo (Nicolas, & Suder, 2008).

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Conclusion

I would conclude by saying that CSR is important in all corporations. The paradigm has shifted to more consumer-friendly level of marketing rather than traditional methods of marketing a company’s products through methods like branding, giving free samples among others. Corporations are getting to the ground and involving their employees in helping the communities and in turn customers are getting to know about their products and also becoming loyal customers to such corporations in future. Through CSR, we as consumers see the other side of corporations especially the large ones in a different light. It is therefore important that all corporations engage in CSR to help communities not forgetting that the communities that they help may be where some of the corporation’s employees have come from (Deresky, 1997). Such an employee would also feel the need to work and give the best to his or her employers. Therefore, I conclude by saying the corporations who practice CSR are in a give and take situation.

Reference

Danley, J. (1991): Ethics and the Organizational Person: Revisiting DeGeorge: Journal of Business Ethics: Vol. 10: No. 12: pp. 935 – 950.

Deresky, H. (1997): International Management: Managing Across Borders & Cultures: New York: Addison Wesley Publishing Company: 2nd Ed.

Nicolas, N. & Suder, G. (2008): Microsoft Partnership with UNHCR: France: CERAM Business School.

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