Stephen Schwarzman, a Wall Street heavyweight who was once turned down for a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, is now on the fast track to setting up...
The month-long container port strike earlier this year captured much public attention. Details reported in the media of the dockers’ long working hours, small pay rises over the past decade, and deplorable working conditions galvanised support for the hundreds camping out in Kwai Tsing and the smaller number who later moved their strike base to Central. Such actions amounted to negative publicity for the corporate hierarchy. Even though senior executives appeared to be unperturbed by the protests, remaining largely behind the scenes, the fact that workers had to resort to strike action to assert their demands reflected badly on the company. In many ways, this stands as a classic case study in corporate social responsibility. Labour disputes may be driven by a variety of motives, but any company with a sense of social responsibility should be willing to address the issues. Employers are obliged to look after the welfare and interests of staff, whether they are multinationals making sure no exploitation of labour occurs at manufacturing bases around the world or local companies respecting workers’ legitimate rights and requests. It often seems that not many business executives are aware of the true meaning and spirit of CSR. To correct that, programmes like the MBA in CSR at Nottingham University aim to educate future leaders to take a broader perspective on business practices, ethics, and making a bigger contribution to society. It links CSR with the concept of sustainability and is not merely about doing good for the sake of the company’s corporate image. The programme also emphasises that, without a real commitment to a social cause, any campaign is unlikely to make a lasting difference in the long run. The Nottingham course covers theoretical and practical aspects of analysing a company’s CSR performance. That helps to instil key concepts about ethics, sustainability, and how to incorporate socially responsible behaviour in strategic business plans. Discussing these topics in or outside the classroom gives future leaders an understanding of how to conduct business in a proper way, so that they are not driven by the profit motive alone.