Socially Responsible Business – Doing the Right Thing
By Lizabeth England
Businesses have an ethical responsibility to customers who buy goods and services from them. Socially responsible business means that companies do the right thing for their customers. Companies consider profit, consumer satisfaction, and societal well being as equally important in the way business isconducted. Governments often enact laws that force businesses to function ethically. Consumers also can force businesses to act ethically regarding their purchases. For example, in the United States today, consumers and consumer activists boycott over 800 products.
This chapter is on socially responsible business. Teachers and students want to know about ways in which businesses are held accountable tocustomers for goods and services that they sell. According to consumer rights laws, people who buy goods and services have four rights: the right to be safe, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard. This chapter will provide teachers and students with opportunities to learn more about socially responsible business and about doing the right thing.
In the UnitedStates, businesses are often judged by their socially responsible behaviors. Most people agree that these include the following specific elements: equal employment opportunity for all citizens regardless of their race, religion or sex; respect for employees’ diversity, safety, and health in the workplace; and assurance and full disclosure on the quality of products and services. If any one of theseelements is ignored or abused, a business is likely to be subjected to a penalty and sometimes, legal action.
In the 1960s, Ralph Nader, an American economist and consumer advocate, spoke and wrote about the social responsibility for businesses. Today, businesses use his ideas to make sure that customers’ rights are protected.
Many companies use the following listof customers’ rights (based on an abbreviated version of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights) to guide them in their efforts to be socially responsible.
What is socially responsible business?
A socially responsible business provides goods and services in line with a society’s values. Socially responsible businesses in the United States are concerned about how customers areprotected and how employees are treated. There are federal and state laws that protect the rights of customers and employees, as well as the environment, from unethical business practices. Businesses in all countries should consider social responsibility as an important part of operations.
A brief description of ways in which customers’ rights are protected in the U. S. and in many othercountries follows:
Mr. Nader’s work in consumerism highlighted the value and need of protecting customers’ rights which is the basis of consumer rights laws.
The Right to be Safe
This right applies to the goods and services purchased by consumers. Injury or damage that consumers incur because of use of products or services are the responsibility of the manufacturer (productliability). As a result, many companies do comprehensive product testing to find any flaws or problems in their products before selling them on the open market.
The Right to be Informed
Consumers have the right to information about the products that they buy. If product or goods information is not clearly and completely available to consumers, they can (and have) sue the company. Groups thatprotect consumers’ right to information are the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. The Internet contains many deceptive marketing claims because it is a new area for consumer rights activists in the United States and elsewhere.
The Right to Choose
In a competitive world, consumers have a right to choose among competing brands of goods and services. Ethical businesses...