Scholarly article on topic 'Contrasting Instrumental Views on Corporate Social Responsibility: Short-term Versus Long-term Profit Orientation Approach'

Contrasting Instrumental Views on Corporate Social Responsibility: Short-term Versus Long-term Profit Orientation Approach Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Duygu Türker

Abstract The theoretical debate over the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been proliferated with the rise of diverse approaches during the last decades. The current study focuses particularly on the instrumental theories on CSR, which are grouped by Garriga and Melé’s under three diverse approaches, and discuss how and why we need a new configuration over this group of theories as short-term profit oriented approach and long-term profit oriented approach to adapt to the task environment. In order to investigate whether the proposed theoretical distinctions between short-term and long-term orientation affects the CSR involvement, a survey was conducted over a sample of Turkish managers of business organizations. The results of study demonstrate that while short-term thinking of CSR negatively affects the CSR involvement to employees, government, community, and ethical issues; affects positively to CSR involvement to environment. In contrast to this result, the long-term thinking of CSR positively affects the CSR involvement to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues.

Academic research paper on topic "Contrasting Instrumental Views on Corporate Social Responsibility: Short-term Versus Long-term Profit Orientation Approach"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 207 (2015) 568 - 576

11th International Strategic Management Conference 2015

Contrasting Instrumental Views on Corporate Social Responsibility: Short-term versus Long-term Profit Orientation Approach

Duygu Türker*

Yasar University, 35100, Bornova, izmir, Turkey

Abstract

The theoretical debate over the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been proliferated with the rise of diverse approaches during the last decades. The current study focuses particularly on the instrumental theories on CSR, which are grouped by Garriga and Mele's under three diverse approaches, and discuss how and why we need a new configuration over this group of theories as short-term profit oriented approach and long-term profit oriented approach to adapt to the task environment. In order to investigate whether the proposed theoretical distinctions between short-term and long-term orientation affects the CSR involvement, a survey was conducted over a sample of Turkish managers of business organizations. The results of study demonstrate that while short-term thinking of CSR negatively affects the CSR involvement to employees, government, community, and ethical issues; affects positively to CSR involvement to environment. In contrast to this result, the long-term thinking of CSR positively affects the CSR involvement to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues.

© 2015TheAuthors. Published by ElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the International Strategic Management Conference

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility (CSR), CSR involvement, short-term profit orientation, long-term profit orientation

1. Introduction

Despite the long-standing history of notion, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is essentially a product of the twentieth century. Particularly since the early 1950s, the concerns of business organizations with regard to society have grown significantly (Carroll, 2008). In his well-known article, Friedman (1970) discusses the growing interest of the business community in CSR and puts forward distinct views on why a business should not engage in socially responsible activities. Although Friedman's views have many supporters, the increasing popularity of CSR among the

* Corresponding author. Tel. + 90-232 4115000 Email address: duygu.turker@yasar.edu.tr

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the International Strategic Management Conference doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.10.128

business community over time indicates that such activities are no longer a matter of choice. Today, CSR becomes a fashionable management concept and a subject that modern managers cannot afford to ignore (Porter and Kramer, 2006; Zorn and Collins, 2007). Numerous companies around the world now actively espouse CSR, and there are no indications that this trend will reverse anytime soon. Therefore, it is critical to answer the question of why companies attempt to act in a socially responsible manner.

Many efforts have been made in the literature to understand the nature of and motives behind CSR, and significant progress has been made. Some scholars have analyzed the organizational motives for CSR at the theoretical level (Aguinis and Glavas, 2012; Brummer, 1991; Davis, 1973; Gamga and Melé, 2004; Klonoski, 1991; Moir, 2001; Preston, 1975; Secchi, 2007; Windsor, 2006). One of the most prominent CSR studies that carried out by Davis (1973), examines and outlines in list form the contrasting arguments of the concept's supporters and opponents. Despite this study's early and useful articulation on CSR motives, Davis fails to back up his ideas with a theoretical framework. In their study, Aguinis and Glavas (2012) elaborately review the available literature and simply list the motives such as instrumental motives, legitimacy search, normative reasons, or a sense of stewardship. As an invaluable theoretical contribution to the literature, Garriga and Melé (2004) review the growing body of CSR literature and classify the main approaches into four groups: instrumental, political, integrative, and ethical theories. Although this study offers a useful overview, one potential limitation is the rather unclear distinctions among groups of theories (Secchi, 2007). Moreover, the proposed distinction among theoretical frameworks was not empirically supported by the authors. The current study focuses particularly on the instrumental group in Garriga and Melé's (2004) study and attempts to classify these approaches in line with the short-term and long-term profit orientation of companies within their task environment. Based on a sample of 65 managers among the members of a businesspeople association in Turkey, the study tries to investigate whether short-term profit orientation and long-term profit orientation affects the social responsibilities of companies in various fields. The study tries to address the ongoing debate on CSR with providing how corporate behaviours can change when they adopt short-term thinking with maximizing current shareholder value or long-term thinking with increasing competitive advantage.

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses Development

2.1. Adaptation to the Task Environment: Profit-Orientation

Since the early study of Dill (1958), there has been growing awareness in the organizational literature that the components of the task environment are critical for organizations. According to Bourgeois (1980, p. 26), the environmental layer closest to an organization is its task environment, which includes "suppliers, customers, and regulatory bodies with whom the organization interacts and whose actions directly affect organizational goal attainment." The task environment comprises the sectors that conduct day-to-day transactions with the organization and directly affect its operations and performance (Daft, 2003). According to Oliver (1997, p. 102), "organizational success in task environments is dependent on the acquisition of scarce resources and the effective management of task interdependencies in a competitive market context." Since organizations are struggling for the same resources and customers within the task environment, this environment is characterized by competitive pressure. To survive and remain profitable in the face of this competition, organizations need to implement different strategies. According to Dentchev (2004, p. 398), "competitive pressures urge managers to consider the effect of organizational actions (including performance with concern for society and the natural environment) on the competitive advantage of their firms." On the other hand, this type of responses towards environmental issues can be referred as environmental competitiveness (Bansal and Roth, 2000) and the intensity of perceived rivalry positively affects the development of environmental responsiveness (Martínez-del-Río and Céspedes-Lorente, 2014). In this sense, CSR may be viewed as a profit-oriented strategy that helps a firm to outperform its rivals.

In the CSR literature, the profit motive has emerged as one of the most widely accepted explanations for engagement in socially responsible activities. Garriga and Melé (2004, p. 53-55) call the theories related to this view "instrumental theories." They include such approaches as the maximization of shareholder value, achieving competitive advantage, and cause-related marketing under this umbrella. Garriga and Melé (2004) trace them back to the first focus of Parsons' classification (1956, p. 80) of the social system in relation to its environment, which is the "adaptation of an organization to the situation in which it must operate." However, the current distin ction of Garriga and Melé (2004) under instrumental theories has several problems. First, the first two groups of theories as maximization of shareholder value and achieving competitive advantage cannot be clearly distinguished in its current

version, which mainly emphasizes the impact of CSR on maximizing shareholder value in a competitive business environment. They are not mutually exclusive; a company can involve in CSR to enhance its competitive advantage in order to maximize its shareholder value as an ultimate goal. Therefore, this version of instrumental theories provides a somewhat vague distinction between diverse corporate approaches under instrumental theories. The second problem appears in the third group under instrumental theories - cause-related marketing. As the name implies itself, this group of theories, if they exist, should be discussed with a focus of marketing conception rather than as part of CSR literature. Cause-related marketing is "an effective marketing tool" for promoting CSR (Liu and Ko, 2011) "to capitalise on a firm's social engagement initiatives to achieve a positive return on a firm's social investment" (Liu, 2013, p.243). Therefore, together with the sponsorship or promotional activities, this type of marketing activities might be used to build/enhance corporate/product image and usually generate a direct profit during the involvement of company. As one of the best example for such activities, Product Red helps to the campaign on AIDS treatment in Africa as well as the participants companies to increase their brand equity with selling their red-branded products. Despite its rapid and widespread acceptance over the global society, even this 'best example' is under criticism of "how the corporations that are part of this initiative use RED to build up their brand profiles, sell products and/or portray themselves as both 'caring' and 'cool'" (Ponte et al., 2009) or whether these programmes operate in "a nontransparent fashion that puts both consumer protection and consumer trust in philanthropy at risk" (Dadush, 2010). Therefore, despite this hybrid approaches that integrate well the social and economic concerns within a marketing scheme is valuable, they seem to be unrelated with the ongoing debate on CSR literature over the tension of short-term and long-term thinking.

2.2. Short-term and Long-term Profit Orientation

Although it is criticized above that how Garriga and Melé (2004) classify the instrumental theories, this critic is made just for their approach in distinguishing the theories within the instrumental theories - not for the need for distinguishing theories. It is clear that the instrumental theories are not the same and significantly need to be classified in terms of corporate approaches. Since the short-term or long-term impact of CSR on profitability is important stimuli for engagement in socially responsible activities, the literature on instrumental approaches can be classified based on this distinction. According to Kolstad (2007, p. 137), many corporate executives either view CSR as "a means to the ultimate end of increasing shareholder returns" or believe that "CSR and profit go together." It is clear that both lines of defence, in fact, share a similar point of view: CSR is a way to increase profitability. An interesting study in this body of work is that published by Crouch (2006, p. 1534), who defines CSR as "corporate externality recognition" and analyzes the question of how a profit-maximizing company can be expected to take action that will cost it something, but for which it will receive no payment. By modelling the firm interacting with its environment as a market actor and an organization, the author indicates that the resolution of the potential conflict between CSR and the maximization of shareholder value lies in the CSR goal being "marketized" (Crouch, 2006, p. 1547).

Although Friedman (1970) in his milestone article claims that the only responsibility of a business is to increase profits for its owners, even he makes an exception to explain the implicit link between CSR and profit. Bakan (2004, p. 34) conducted an interview with Friedman and reports: "There is, however, one instance when corporate social responsibility can be tolerated, according to Friedman - when it is insincere. The executive who treats social and environmental values as means to maximise shareholders' wealth - not as ends in themselves - commits no wrong. It's like 'putting a good-looking girl in front of an automobile to sell an automobile' he told me. 'That's not in order to promote pulchritude. That's in order to sell cars.'" Therefore, even Friedman agrees that CSR can be tolerated as long as it is used as a strategic tool to maximize profit. This approach is clearly overlapping the Garriga and Melé's (2004) maximizing current shareholder value with following the Friedman's views. In this case, companies that have such a short-term perspective about the nature and content on CSR might accept minimum or no responsibilities and solely focus on increasing their short-term profitability.

Therefore, the following hypothesis can be proposed:

H1: The short-term profit oriented CSR approach negatively affects the CSR involvement.

On the other hand, some companies can adopt a long-term thinking on CSR and believe that CSR can increase their profit in the long run. For instance, CSR may have a positive impact on an organization's reputation, competitiveness,

and sustainability (Burke and Logsdon, 1996; Johnson, 2003; Porter and Kramer, 2002; Snider et al., 2003); current employees (Brammer et al., 2005; Maignan et al., 1999; Mueller et al., 2012; Peterson, 2004; Rupp et al., 2006; Shen and Benson, 2014; Smith and Kumar, 2014; Turker 2009; Watkins et al., 2015); prospective employees (Albinger and Freeman, 2000; Duarte et al., 2014; Greening and Turban, 2000; Turban and Greening, 1996); and customer responses and preferences (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Creyer, 1997; Ellen et al., 2000; Maignan et al., 1999; Murray and Vogel, 1997; Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001; Tsai et al., 2014). Although these impacts may be indirect, in the end they all might lead to an increase in organizational performance and profitability (Khojastehpour and Johns, 2014; Marquis et al., 2007). A recent study on 149 new ventures shows that long-term oriented firms have a positive relationship between CSR and financial performance while firms with low long-term orientation have a strongly negative slope on the given link (Wang and Bansal, 2012). Similar to Garriga and Melé (2004), the companies with long-term thinking might believe that CSR can give them a competitive advantage over their rivals and contribute to the long-term profitability and shareholder wealth.

Based on the discussion, the following hypothesis is proposed:

H2: The long-term profit oriented CSR approach positively affects the CSR involvement. 3. Methodology 3.1. Measurement

Since there is no scale that can directly measure the short-term profit oriented CSR approach and long-term profit oriented CSR approach, an item pool was generated based on the empirical studies of Ostlund (1977), Ford and Mclaughlin (1984), Orpen (1987), and Quazi and O'Brein (2000). As a milestone study in the literature, the study of Davis (1973) provides the logical backbone of all these further empirical studies with juxtaposing the arguments for and against CSR. Table 1 provides these items and their sources.

Table 1. Short-term and Long-term Profit Oriented CSR Approach Scales

Orientation Davis' (1973) Item Source

Argument

Short-term Profit Business is most socially responsive when it attends strictly to its Ford and Mclaughlin (1984);

maximization economic interests and leaves social activities to social institutions. Orpen (1987); Quazi and

O'Brien (2000)

Cost of social Business already has a lot to do and should not take on other Quazi and O'Brien (2000)

involvement responsibilities

Dilution of Ford and Mclaughlin (1984);

business's Orpen (1987); Quazi and

primary purpose A firm that ignores social responsibility can obtain a competitive O'Brien (2000)

advantage over a firm that does not.

Long-term Long-run self- It is in the long-run self-interest of the business to get directly Ostlund (1977); Ford and

interest involved in social issues. Mclaughlin (1984); Orpen

(1987)

Public image Socially responsible activities can help a business to create a Ostlund (1977); Ford and

trustworthy image in the society. Mclaughlin (1984); Orpen

(1987); Quazi and O'Brien

(2000)

Problems can Contributing to the solution of social problems can be profitable Ostlund (1977); Ford and

become profit for business Mclaughlin (1984); Orpen

(1987); Quazi and O'Brien

(2000)

State image A business can gain the trust of government if it engages into New Item

socially responsible behaviors.

It can be noticed that the items were slightly integrated and modified to avoid meaning loss when translating them into Turkish. Moreover, the study was conducted in state-dependent business system (Bugra, 1994) the legitimacy search of companies against government institutions is taken as a function of long-term profit orientation and the fourth item was added to the scale to capture the context-specific nature of CSR. The responses were obtained with a 5-point Likert Scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree).

Similar to the above-mentioned process, an item pool is generated to measure CSR involvement based on the previous scales of Ostlund (1977), Ford and Mclaughlin (1984), Orpen (1987), Abbott and Monsen (1979), Epstein and Freedman (1994) and Perrini (2005). The items were regrouped over diverse stakeholders and issues and some items were selected from the pool to represent the whole diversity of CSR involvement. Table 2 presents the selected items to measure the employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues. The responses were obtained with a 5-point Likert Scale (from none to high involvement).

Table 2. CSR Involvement Scale

Dimension Items

Employees Employee health and safety

Training opportunities for employees

Improve employee benefits

Equal opportunity in hiring and promotion

Equality of treatment for all employees

Environment Pollution control

Use an effective environmental strategy

Reduce the energy and material consumption

Government Cooperation with local authorities

Corruption prevention

Responding to governmental voluntary guidelines

Community Community improvement programs (like in the fields of art, culture, education, health, etc.)

Contribute to charitable activities

Ethical issues Provide ethical & environmental product and services

Provide full and accurate information to all stakeholders about company

Use ethical practice codes

Based on the elaboration of measurement on CSR involvement into five separate components, the hypotheses of current study need to be clarified in the following:

H1: The short-term profit oriented CSR approach negatively affects the CSR involvement to (a) employees, (b) environment, (c) government, (d) community, and (e) ethical issues.

H2: The long-term profit oriented CSR approach positively affects the CSR involvement to (a) employees, (b) environment, (c) government, (d) community, and (e) ethical issues.

3.2. Sample Selection and Data Collection

The sample of the study was drawn from the members of a businesspeople association in Turkey. Although the member network of this association was not open to the public in its web page, the researcher obtained a full list of 4,052 members as of 2012. Among these members, a sample of 300 members was randomly selected from different sectors/regions and the questionnaire form was sent by e-mail to the senior managers. Despite two follow-up e-mails within one month, only 65 usable questionnaire forms were obtained at the end of the process. The response rate is around 21.6 percent. The collected data was analysed with using SPSS.

3.3. Descriptive Statistics

Among the respondent companies, 38 of them have less than 50 employees, while 14 of them have 50-250 employees and 8 of them have more than 250 employees. The companies are operating in between 8 to 75 years with having an average 27 years in their sector. While 33 companies are exporting their products, 25 of them are serving only to the domestic market. As representing their business organizations, all the respondents of questionnaire form

work as the senior manager in their organization; while 93 percent of respondents were male, 95 percent of them graduated a university or higher degree and mean age is around 42 (between 25 to 60).

3.4. Factor Analysis and Reliability Test

Factor analysis was performed for the scales of short-term and long-term profit oriented CSR approach. Table 3 shows the rotated component matrix regarding with their relative explanatory powers.

Table 3. Total variance explained and rotated factor loading matrix (VARIMAX)

Component Commonalities

Items Factor 1 Factor 2

It is in the long-run self-interest of the business to get directly involved in social issues. Socially responsible activities can help a business to create a trustworthy image in the society. A business can gain the trust of government if it engages into socially responsible behaviors. Contributing to the solution of social problems can be profitable for business Business is most socially responsive when it attends strictly to its economic interests and leaves social activities to social institutions. Business already has a lot to do and should not take on other responsibilities A firm that ignores social responsibility can obtain a competitive advantage over a firm that does not. ,857 ,811 ,610 ,772 ,900 ,893 ,687 ,787 ,663 ,382 ,608 ,812 ,799 ,507

Sum of squares (eigenvalues) Percentage of trace 2,777 39,674 1,781 25,442 4,558 65,116

Note: Factor loadings less than 0.40 have not been reproduced.

The two factors capture 65.11% of the variance of the 7 items while factor 1 accounts for 39.67% of the variance (eigenvalue 2.777), factor 2 for 25.44% variance (eigenvalue 1.781). The internal consistency of items in the scale was assessed by computing Cronbach's alpha. The alpha was around the suggested threshold value as 0.733.

3.5. Hypothesis Testing

Table 4 presents the mean values and correlations coefficient of dependent and independent variables. It can be seen that the correlation coefficient between short-term oriented CSR and CSR to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues were .327, .276, -.027, .136, and .202, respectively. The correlation coefficient between long-term oriented CSR and CSR to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues were .419, .362, .259, .418, and .264, respectively. There is no multicollinearity problem in the data.

Table 4. Mean Values and Correlation Matrix

Variables Mean Employees Environment Government Community Ethical issues Long-term oriented CSR

Employees 3.7041 1

Environment 3.7541 .614** 1

Government 3.6967 .409** .438** 1

Community 3.7705 .319* .355** .555** 1

Ethical issues 4.1066 .664** .576** .415** .352** 1

Long-term oriented CSR 3.9016 .419** .362** .259* .418** .264* 1

Short-term oriented CSR 2.3607 .327* .276* -.027 .025 .136 .202

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level. / * Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level.

Table 5 shows the results of hypothesis testing. The first group of hypotheses predict the negative link between the short-term profit oriented CSR approach and the CSR involvement to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues. Only one of these group of hypotheses (H1b) provides a statistically significant result; there is a positive link between short-term profit oriented CSR approach and the CSR involvement to environment (P = .276).

Table 5. The results of regression analysis for H1 and H2.

Independent Hypothesis Dependent Adjusted R2 Unstandardized Standardized t

Variable Variable coefficients P coefficients P

Short-term H1a Employees .092 .202 .327 2.655

oriented CSR H1b Environment .060 .213 .276 2.203*

approach H1c Government .016 -.024 -.027 -.208

H1d Community .016 .025 .025 .192

H1e Ethical issues .002 .100 .136 1.058

Long-term H2a Employees .161 .323 .419 3.541**

oriented CSR H2b Environment .117 .350 .362 2.985**

approach H2c Government .051 .290 .259 2.058*

H2d Community .160 .530 .418 3.531**

H2e Ethical issues .054 .240 .264 2.099*

Significant at *p<0.05 and **p<0.01.

The second group of hypotheses predict the positive link between the long-term profit oriented CSR approach and the CSR involvement to employees, environment, government, community, and ethical issues. Table 5 presents that all hypotheses were obtained statistically significant at .001 and 050; therefore, there is a positive link between the long-term profit oriented CSR approach and the CSR involvement to employees (P = .419), environment (P = .362), government (P = .259), community (P = .418), and ethics (P = .264).

4. Conclusion

The result of the study indicates that two instrumental approaches towards CSR can be distinguished in terms of the short-term and long-term profit orientation. The companies that have short-term focus have not statistically significant engagement in CSR to employees, government, community, and ethical issues. Interestingly, even if the companies adopt short-term focus on CSR, they can still take their environmental responsibility. On the other hand, all of the second group of hypotheses indicate the statistically significant results. Therefore, the companies that adopt long-term focus on CSR engage in CSR to all these above-mentioned issues. Among all these CSR involvement components, CSR to employees and community have highest importance for the companies. The study indicates that the long-term profit oriented CSR approach is much stronger predictor of the overall CSR involvement of firm than the short-term CSR focus. The future studies which can be conducted in the different business contexts can enhance whether and how the suggested links vary across cultures on the societal and organizational culture dimensions. Moreover, the current study just focuses on the impact of adopting these approaches on CSR, but the potential impact of individual or organizational level variables such as managerial values, organizational structure, organizational performance etc. The future studies can also shed the light on whether and how such variables moderate the link between short-term and long-term orientation on CSR involvement.

The findings of survey provide some useful and practical managerial insight. Adopting a long-term focus on CSR positively affects the firm's involvement in CSR towards direct and indirect stakeholders such as employees, customers, governmental and non-governmental organizations etc. Therefore, the long-term oriented CSR involvement can help managers to develop and enhance the capability of managing their stakeholder network. The managers of such firms can both capitalize their strength in CSR involvement and take the advantage of having strong relationship among its stakeholder network. Additionally, the managers of firms with long-term orientation can exceed what their stakeholders expect from them and turn their instrumental approach into sincere one easily. These organizations can play a significant role in the transformation of dominant business paradigm with short-term focus into a sustainable one. As a multiplier impact over the well-being of society, they might also lead other firms to take a similar stance towards the social, economic, and environmental problems.

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