CRS in terms of marketing strategy and competitive advantage.
This present paper tries to enhance the different views about CSR, in the global vision of all the stakeholders, in the particular context of retailing. We will treat the interest for a company to deal with responsible actions and activities, and the main breaks found by certain authors. The subject is treated in relation with marketing strategies and tries to persuade the readers that CSR is a good solution to gain competitive advantage.
Several organizations such as governments, activists or the media, want to make the general public aware about the social consequences of the companies' activities, by publishing different rankings classifying companies according their involvement in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Porter and Kramer (2006a) explain that this concept of CSR has taken an increasing importance in the companies' corporate strategies, in order to escape from the bad publicity entailed by such publications. So, what is the final thought about CRS, and is it a relevant subject today? First, we will see the main discussions about CSR, secondly, how to implement such a strategy in a retailing context, and finally, we will discuss the Tesco's Corporate Social Activities (CSI) in a CSR strategy.
To turn or not to turn into a CSR strategy? That is the question Definitions
First, let us try to define the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. Generally, one agrees to consider that the first notion of social responsibility was broached in 1953 by Bowen, who explains that companies have the obligation "to pursue those policies, to make those decisions, or to follow those lines of actions which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of society" Bowen (1953:6). As Carroll (1979) who defines CRS as the economic, legal ethical and discretionary demands that society places on business, Boatright (1997) describes CSR as "the voluntary assumption by companies of responsibilities beyond purely economic and legal responsibilities." As we can realize, there is not any defined definition of the CSR term, but most of the time, scholars admit that CSR is the involvement into social, environmental and ethical activities from part of a company in its business.
As we have given some CSR definitions, we will discuss now the customers' expectations and other stakeholders' pressures about being a responsible company. The first stage is to determine who are the stakeholders, and try to meet their wishes in terms of CSR, Piacentini, MacFayden, Eadie (2000). Then, their expectations are enhanced thanks to enquires, questionnaires or academic surveys, and compared with the company's values. CRS can take several forms of applications, which correspond to social, environmental or ethical goals: Corporate Ethicality, Corporate Philanthropy, Environmental/Green Marketing and Social activism/Community involvement, West et al. (2006).
Corporate Philanthropy (CP) should be used to merge two goals: social and economic aims. For that, the company "can focus itself on the business approach of charitable giving", because remain honest, the apparent company's willingness is more led by the search of profitability than philanthropy, Porter and Kramer (2002b:204). The current tendency is to use opportunities more than in a voluntary strategy, because firms do not really understand the importance of dedicate financial supports to suitable recipients. Actually, they hardy choose charitable activities and causes without taking care about the conformity with their own values and/or competitive advantage, Porter (2002). Furthermore, according the same authors, CP is more related with public relations than with the will to improve a situation. However, if a firm accurately communicates about its CP activities towards all the stakeholders and the general public,...