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Effectiveness of CSR in Achieving Sustainable Development


1. Introduction

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept that has acquired a new character in the global economy. “With the advent of globalization, managers in different contexts have been exposed to the notion of CSR and are being pressured to adopt CSR initiatives” (Jamali and Sidani, 2008; 330).
Therefore, even more corporations are increasing conscience about the importance of matching their own interests and the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on employees, suppliers, customers, communities and other stakeholders as well as the environment.
Although, this is an obligation that goes beyond economics or law, and in which companies have to act ahead in pursuing long term goals that can also be good for the society and the environment as a whole.
Intrinsically related to the topic of CSR is the protection of the environment for future generations through Sustainable actions. Not only because there has been an enormous technological progress that means we are not as much dependent as decades ago of a wide range of natural resources such as air, energy, land, and minerals.
On the contrary, driven by the growth of the population and the hectic globalization, competition for those natural resources has been intense. As a result, this competition also brought a powerful driver for both environmental conflicts and damage to our fragile, life-supporting environment.
A range of environmental disasters, such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, and soil contamination, have been occurring along the past decades and which turned organizations and society more aware of practice such as recycling, energy consumption, preservation, among others.
“Evolving from an attitude of simply reacting to such disasters and their effects on the physical environment, corporate concerns now include strategic planning and looking at the environment in its multiple social, cultural, political, and institutional dimensions” (Enriquez and Drummond, 2007; 75).
Therefore, the instruments of corporative citizenship turned also to the preservation of the environment as a strategic element for enterprises in the whole world. Along with the development for part of the organizations of clean technologies, there is also the concern in getting a green image, which put organizations’ sustainable activities into practice calling for an Ecobusiness.
Especially in the past two years, 2008 and 2009, the world was marked by a financial crisis that had an impact in economies of organizations in general. Nevertheless, the financial crisis is not causing firms or governments to abandon sustainable development. In fact, many business and government suggest that a ‘green solution’ can be found to both economic and ecological challenges, creating new jobs and markets by investing in new forms of energy, redesigning or retrofitting buildings and equipment, and managing forests and other ecosystems sustainably.
Mineral industries, for example, are using the actual crisis on their own benefit, attempting to identify domains where actions are required and trying to shape a different future to this industry, taking advantage of the actual scenario. To achieve that they make use of available data and information to appreciate the mining sector’s impact, giving support to decision makers in their strategic choices.
The actions of Alcoa Inc., for example, are impressive and unique, the company interplays among intangibles as leadership and innovation as well as a strong CSR strategy, wisingly aligning society, workplace and environment, productivity, and financial performance in the context of a traditional manufacturing company.
This project research examines the existing literature in an attempt to create a more comprehensive perspective of what has been written about the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development. The project’s approach was qualitative in nature and focused on discovering what researchers and authors have explored and understand about this complex subject.
Besides, it looks at some of the principal favourable and unfavourable arguments to the social responsibility of enterprises, especially when they are being considered by multinational enterprises interested in initiating activities into developing countries, with focus into Brazil. We also propose some alternatives of acting in the area of Social Responsibility made by Alcoa Inc., considering the current Brazilian reality, with the aim of achieving Sustainable Development.
This dissertation is divided in two parts. Part one will be based in secondary data and involves: Chapter II, which comprises the literature review that examines existent work in current trends involving the subject of CSR as well as paradigms as SD in order to help establish what values associated indicators could contain.
Chapter III, the explanation of the methodology used along the development of the project.
Part two, comprises Chapter IV, which examines factors involving Alcoa Inc., taking into account its current CSR and SD actions and strategies, making use of a questionnaire, answered by some of the organization’s managers, in relation to the issues encountered in the literature.
Chapter V, will draw conclusions, make future recommendations and points out gaps for future research.

1.2 Research Title

The Effectiveness of Corporate Social Responsibility as a means of achieving Sustainable Development: a case study of Alcoa Incorporation.

1.3 Research Background

In the modern complex and dynamic business environment, most organizations are adopting a global attitude making sure that they are geared for being global. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that the world is constantly developing and changing and no change is permanent because any change is about to be further adjusted in the short or long run to suit the environment and the challenges they face.
Organizations are now more powerful and have more influence in the society. Therefore, “The notion of corporate social responsibility today functions as an emblem, that the company themselves rise towards a consensual “social revolution” that will eventually benefit all the stakeholders of our society” (Habish et al, 2005; 271).
Corporate social responsibility intrinsically relates to environmental issues faced globally, especially in the early stages of the twenty-first century and sustaining in a particular industry has become very difficult task for many businesses.
“Employees, investors and consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of the social and environmental impact to people and planet that a company produces, which are both positive and negative. As consumers become even more aware of sustainable practices, there will be even greater demands for business communities to do the right thing, requiring enhanced ethical leadership and CSR to drive profits, and brand loyalty” (Mamic, 2004; Leffel, Sweeney, 2007 cited by Maass, 2007; 36)
Alcoa is “the world’s leading producer and manager of primary aluminium, fabricated aluminium, and alumina facilities.
In the framework of sustainability, Alcoa is considered one of the top three companies in the world in terms of commitment to sustainable development and has made use of an environmental strategy associated with a truthful social responsibility in order to gain competitive advantage and success in the marketplace. For example, for three years the Company has been sponsoring the Internethos program, directed at the development of Corporate Social Responsibility for Sustainability (
Moreover, “Recognition from the Covalence Ethical Ranking drives the company to intensify actions of engagement of strategic publics. In 2006, the company was indicated as world leader in ethics, in the mining and metallurgical Industry, according to Covalence Ethical Ranking” (Alcoa annual report, 2006/2007; 41)

1.4 Research Aims

– Analyse how corporate social responsibility can ensure competitive advantage and success in achieving sustainable development.
– To explore, analyze and identify the use of environmental strategy as a tool of achieving global success.
– Analyse the importance of achieving sustainable development in today’s global environment.

1.5 Research Objectives

– To evaluate, in an environmental perspective, the effectiveness of corporate social responsibility in today’s global business.
– To evaluate, in an environmental perspective, the effectiveness of corporate social responsibility on achieving sustainability.
– To establish the feasibility of using corporate social responsibility within the industry to align strategic planning with sustainable development.
– To analyse and find out the implications of corporate social responsibility in Alcoa’s Inc. environmental management.
– To identify the extent to which the environmental management is involved in strategic planning at Alcoa Inc.
– To identify how important is environmental sensitivity to a company that extracts natural resources.
– To analyse in depth the integration of sustainability to Alcoa’s overall business giving emphasis to Brazil.
– To investigate practices used by Alcoa Inc. in its implementation of corporate social responsibility as a means of achieving sustainable development.

1.6 Rationale of the project

The objective of this project was to gather information that could be useful and benefit different organizations in engaging in environmental strategies by the concept of corporate social responsibility. Moreover, data collected can also guide corporations by providing them with an understanding of sustainable development and the resources they can make use of to establish a sustainable future for society and the environment. The information gathered for this present work was collected through an extensive literature review as well as the use of different sources of information, such as videos. In addition, a questionnaire was used in order to collect insight information on the organization’s management perspectives and its corporate social responsibility strategies for a sustainable development and prosperous business.



2.1 Introduction

Social Responsibility actions are examples of a phenomenon of great proportions, which have been taken into more consideration in the business world, and reflect a new world-wide configuration. Historical recent events, in special environmental catastrophes around the globe, developed the academic discussion on the social paper of organizations, public and private, in the construction of the called sustainable development.
Investors originated from richest countries have been realizing that economical survival and social balance is a long-term phenomenon more and more dependent of a constant preoccupation with levels of development of the least favoured areas of the globe (Parker, 1998).
In the context of globalization, Social Responsibility has started to be understood as an essential instrument to be considered by organizations’ strategists in the sense of paying attention to the social demands of several economical agents involved. Apart from the internationalization strategy adopted, multinational enterprises installed in developing countries are under pressure in adopting an ethical and responsible posture. Meantime, many actions carried out by multinational enterprises, through their own foundations or partnerships with local agencies, have been questioned for disregarding the participation of local actors in the decision processes, in the resource allocation and in the evaluation of results.

2.2 Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

“Some vigorous critics and Marxists tend to dismiss the link between business and ethics” (Shaw, 2009; 2). For example, “It was widely assumed that business and ethics were radically different and that ethical behaviour had little or no return on investment” (Brenkert, 2004; 188).
However, on current days, ethical issues are being one of the most important subjects concerning organizations across the world, which now view business ethics not only in terms of administrative compliance with legal standards, rules or regulations as they used to do in the past. Some corporations are even creating their own written and formal ethical codes in addition with the use of different systems, like corporate social responsibility, to help them to create and maintain an ethical organization culture.
Accordingly, Shaw affirms, “Business ethics thus involves studying the ways to refine and reinforce the implicit norms of the business system” (Shaw, 2009; 3).
Nevertheless, Corporate Social Responsibility is topic of great value in business ethics, as reinforced by Ghauri and Cateora (2006; 468): “Ethics and social responsibility go hand in hand”.
Organizations are increasing conscience about the importance of matching their own interests and the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on employees, suppliers, customers, communities and other stakeholders as well as the environment.
Kotler and Lee (2005; 161) argue, “The first ethical duty of business is to do not harm. Companies are responsible for minimizing stakeholder’s risks. This is the heart of business ethics.”
In fact, when ethical issues come to the organization field, a question is raised: “Of all these stakeholders, which should or will have the most or least influence over the ‘ethical’ rules that will be applied by the organization?” (Buhalis and Laws, 2001; 88)
Despite of all the suggestions given in relation to CSR and business ethics, Jones et al (2005; 19) points out the fact “… whether business ethics will actually make business more ethical.”
In a current globalized environment, companies play an important role in the social structure and more than ever before, are being encouraged to improve their business practices by emphasizing ethical behaviour, not only through the development of new technologies but also through social and environmental initiatives.
Companies are increasingly being held accountable for their actions, especially with the growth in demand for higher standards of corporate social responsibility.
Sims (2003; 8) links the concept of ethics and social responsibility saying that: “Being socially responsible, ethical, and a good corporate citizen is important to meeting and exceeding the expectations for any organization’s stakeholders”. And affirms: “Organizational management that truly cares about business and corporate social responsibility is proactive rather than reactive in linking strategic action and ethics”.
The structure of society has changed due to globalization changes, and the importance of businesses impact in society forced organizations to rethink their actions towards profitability, also promoting the development of concepts like sustainability.
Nisberg (1988; 43 cited by Kilcullen and Kooistra, 1999; 158) gives an important definition of business ethics, which according to the author “can be defined as a set of principles that guides business practices to reflect a concern for society as a whole while pursuing profits”. However, with the relentless pursuit of profit in this actual globalized situation, how to maximise profit and act as an ethical company at the same time?
A good understanding of what exactly is the term Corporate Social Responsibility is essential in order to answer and explain this question through different perspectives and theories.

2.3 History and Definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility

The history of Corporate Social Responsibility can be compared as being as old as the history of business; however, its concept has not been fully formulated until now (Asongu, 2007; 28; Crane et al, 2008).
May et al (2007; 4) also adds “Questions regarding the nature, scope and impact of organizations have been present into various forms for centuries ranging across the ‘classical’, ‘medieval’, ‘mercantile’, ‘industrial’ and ‘corporate eras’”.
Taking into consideration only the period after the Industrial Revolution, or better saying the 20th century, the first author who directly contributed to the responsibility issue was Clark (1916; 210 cited by Secchi, 2007; 351) when he affirmed that “The old idea of free will is giving way to determinism, individualism to public control, personal responsibility to social responsibility.”
During the period of 1930s and 1940s, called as the ‘corporate period’ references about social responsibility can be found, for example: Chester Barnard’s, ‘The functions of the Executive’ (1938) and Theodore Kreps’s ‘Measurement of the social performance of business’ (1940). (Crane et al, 2008).
Murphy (cited by Crane et al, 2008), on the other hand classified Corporate Social Responsibility in four eras as follows: Philanthropic era (up to 1950s), awareness era (1953 to 1967), issue era (1968 to 1973) and awareness era (1974 until now).
According to Secchi (2007; 348), however, “One of the first attempts at classifying theories on CSR (business and society issues) was made by Preston (1975).”
This shows that the concept of CSR has been discussed for long but in fact, has not yet been fully understood and placed among organizations.
Recently, empirical research about Corporate Social Responsibility and its relation to Corporate Social Performance and Sustainability provokes many contradictions in the literature. Due especially to the occurrence of different scandals among enterprises as well as the movement towards an environmentalist society rather than materialist, competitive labour market and shrinking role of government, there were a rise of interest in Corporate Social Responsibility in the past decades (Carrasco and Yakovleva, 2007; 15-16).
Many authors affirm that business and society are interrelated entities rather than being distinctively separated (Kotler, 2005; Wood, 1991 cited by Moir, 2001).
According to Watts et al (1998; 3 cited by Yakovleva, 2005; 12) “Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well of the local community and society at large”.
Corporate Social Responsibility, thus, reflect the responsibility or accountability of organizations in pro not only of its stakeholders but also of its surrounding environment, taking into consideration the various practices that can affect those.
Carroll (1979), on the other hand, proposed a four-layered concept, which was the most accepted model, suggesting four corporations’ responsibilities related to their economical, legal ethical and philanthropic aspects.
All those four aspects are of great meaning to the CSR concept, however, our current work focuses more on the top of the pyramid, which encompasses the philanthropic responsibilities.
“Philanthropic responsibility: Interest in doing good for society, regardless of its impact on the bottom line is what is called altruistic, humanitarian or philanthropic CSR. “giving back” time and money in the forms of voluntary service, voluntary association and voluntary giving – is where most of the controversy over the legitimacy of CSR lies” (Shahin and Zairi, 2007; 755)
According to Carroll, the philanthropic responsibilities are discretionary being, therefore, less important than the other categories; on the other hand, as said before, is the one that brings the most controversial issues.
The definition proposed by Gauri and Cateora (2005) follows the same idea, where the role of a company in the society goes beyond its economic goals.
As we can see, definitions relating CSR are various and contradictory among the literature which makes its study more exciting.

2.4 Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility

Governance is defined by Dam et al (2007; 1333) as “the set of informal arrangements that are used in handling the consequences of these unforeseen states of the world”.
As a result of globalization, different global governance structures have emerged, transforming the CSR concept more difficult to be understood.
This new global governance brought about the participation by firms in tasks that used to be the government’s domain. (Cutler et al., 1999; Scholte, 2001 cited by Albareda, 2008). Corporate Social Responsibility, therefore, “can be seen as a new governance arena” (Haufler, 1999; Scholte, 2001 cited by Albareda, 2008; 434).
Castka et al (2004 cited by Shahin and Zairi, 2007; 761) proposed a useful framework, based on three major assumptions:
“(1) The CSR framework should be integrated into business systems, objectives, targets, and performance measures.
(2) The governance system, whose purpose is to control, provide resources, opportunities, strategic direction of the organisation and be held responsible for doing so, is an integral part of business hence CSR system.
(3) Central to the CSR framework is the transformation of stakeholders’ needs and expectation into business strategy, where the organisation has to balance the need for CSR from their key stakeholders with entrepreneurship.”
Corporate Social Responsibility is considered deliberate governance, however, influenced directly or indirectly by demands from global civil society, Non Government Organizations, or even the government itself. Thus, Corporate Social Responsibility plays a major role in the global economic and political activities of corporations.
“To exercise this political power in international society, companies as private authorities have adopted different mechanisms. The most important of these have been inter-firm cooperative instruments, fundamentally through the creation of CSR business associations” (Albareda, 2008; 434).
The implications of poor corporate governance for people’s lives are tremendous, either in a developed or in a developing country, like Brazil for instance.
Most of the Brazilian corporations are still dominated by a family-owned management, who are therefore, the main, if not the only shareholders of the company. This fact can interfere severely in the potential of corporate governance. “Brazil is a country with strong authoritarian traditions, and inadequate corporate governance laws make it possible to perpetuate authoritarian and concentrated influence over governance structures” (Oman, 2003; 35).
Nevertheless, especially in the past decades, there has been intensification of businesses in relation to governance and sustainability in countries like Brazil.
Paro and Boechat (2008; 533-534) illustrate it: “One of the most significant Brazilian non-governmental organizations with the specific mission to mobilize companies around this issue – the Ethos Institute of Business and Social Responsibility, founded in 1998 – had 1,266 member companies in November 2007. Around 74 Brazilian companies have published reports based on the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines (GRI, 2007), and the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (Bovespa) launched in 2005 its own Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE), which now has 32 companies listed”.
Well-managed corporate governance can have positive effects on socio-economic development; it also hence sustained productivity growth and reforms on regulatory practices, although its benefits cannot be taken into consideration without strengthening the examination of business practices and the government environment as a whole.

2.5 Building Corporate Social Responsibility into Strategy

Corporate and business strategy according to Foss (1997) has different meanings in relation to the kind of decisions to be made. The first relates to decisions that determines the company’s goals and objectives, the latter though, determines how the company will position itself in relation to its competitors, defining its business and resources.
McManus (2008; 1069) affirms: “The term strategy is derived from the Greek Strategia or generalship, sometimes translated as the art of war. The metaphor of business as war, a competition to be won, is pervasive.”
The first author who actually exposed the link between strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility was Michael Porter. He argues that “corporate social responsibility can be a source of innovation and competitive advantage if incorporated into the framework of analysis that companies use to guide their business strategy” (Porter and Kramer, 2006 cited by McManus, 2008; 1077).
Corporations have now added value-creation to their core business always considering its stakeholders’ needs to develop a strategy that is going to keep the company in a competitive advantage position. This is what drives a company to strive in management initiatives, especially if those initiatives are driven towards the achievement of sustainable development.
Lee (2008, cited by McManus, 2008; 1075) argues, “There has been an evolution in CSR from the macro-societal level to the organizational level, with a greater emphasis on managerial, strategic, and ultimately financial issues to the point that the key issue in 2008 is how to integrate CSR into one’s core business.”
Organizations integrated to societal aspects are trying to be aware of the implications of the environment they are in and building, therefore, its strategy based in a social/environmental mission and vision.
On the other hand, “recent reports reveal that almost six out of ten organizations have no strategy for CSR while many companies are unclear as to how to adequately anticipate which social issues will affect their overall strategy” (The Work Foundation, 2002; McKinsey and Company, 2006 cited by Galbreath, 2009; 109)
The importance of keeping the integration of a company’s core business and its strategy according to the society’s (stakeholders) needs determine the effectiveness of a business and its position in the marketplace.
Galbreath (2009; 122) also draws a model of corporate strategy in relation to the society as follows:
Figure 2 – Source: Strategy in the context of society (Galbreath, 2009; 122).
Not only the strategy itself, but also a change on the decision-making framework plays an important role. The use of the classical American pragmatic decision-making is one example. “The use of pragmatic decision making would inherently lead to the consideration of ecological issues within the decision-making process while fostering competitive advantage” (York, 2009; 102)
In conclusion, as McManus (2008; 1068) says, “Perhaps, the greatest contribution of the mash-up CSR and business strategy will be, not in the details of particular approaches to its realization, but rather the change in consciousness of individual business people its emergence may signal.”

2.6 Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility

The first important point in the leadership context is to understand that ethics is not something we born with. Many authors say that along the years we are taught by the community conventions, norms, and regulations that guide our ethical behaviours (Trevin€•o and Nelson, 2004). The same occurs with an organization, where norms, regulations, and values are drawn along the years, guiding their employees and creating its culture, but in this case, the founder has a crucial position, being the one who first underlie most of the organization’s ethics code.
Another important issue consists in how hierarchy of power is distributed in the organization; this is explained because the flow of integrity and moral actions always comes from the top to the bottom of the organization hierarchy and this explains why the founder plays a key role in creating the culture and guiding decisions. This relates to the called learning theory, where leaders are perceived as role models. (Hind et al, 2009)
Daboub et al (1995 cited by Hind et al, 2009; 8) “developed a model which suggested a relationship between the characteristics of an organization’s top management team and corporate irresponsibility, even criminality. The model holds that, other variables being equal, the greater the proliferation of formal management qualifications (e.g. MBA’s) in a top management team, the higher the chances of corporate criminality. The implication of this is that management educators do not seem to be addressing the current and future developmental needs of managers who are required to respond to changing social norms for higher ethical, accountable, and sustainable standards in business.”

2.7 Voluntarism and Accountability of Companies

There are two contradicting views in the role of voluntarism in CSR: The first view is supported by Carrol and Buchholtz, (1999 cited by Yakovleva, 2005; 14) and suggests that “CSR refers to both types of corporate operations: operations towards compliance with legislation requirements and voluntary operations towards social benefit not stipulated by law or economic requirements”. The second view, however, suggests that the firm itself should call for the stakeholder’s interest voluntarily and “considers that CSR starts when law ends” (Yakovleva, 2005; 14).
All those contradictions are part of the inconsistency in defining the term CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility according to Keinert (2008) is concerned to how corporations tackle external pressures responding to them accordingly. Moreover, she adds “It does not question the ‘rightness’ of social expectations from an ethical, theoretical point of view, but seeks way of implementing them” (Keinert 2008; 45)
Apart from this point of view, corporations are responsible, nowadays, alongside the government, to the interests of its employees and society as a whole being also accountable for its actions. Thus, accountability is another important feature of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Zadek (2007; 10) argues: embracing accountability for their actions, corporations “contribute to addressing societal needs and challenges in ways that could also deliver economic value and success.”
According to the IPEA (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada), “Social Accountability 8000 is the first norm turned to the improvement of the conditions of work, including the principal labour rights and certifying the fulfilment through independent auditors. The Social Accountability International LEAVES-, a non-government organization created in 1997 in USA, developed it and which has its action turned to the preoccupation of the consumers for the conditions of work in the world. The norm follows the standard of the ISO 9000 and of the ISO 14000, which makes its introduction easier for enterprises that already know this system”” (
“One of the basic propositions from social accountability favourable to the contemporary point of view is based on Keith Davis’ ideas” (apud Certo & Peter, 1993; 281 cited by Souza, 2004; 31). According to them, “enterprises must operate as an opened system with two hands, with information reception from society and opened advertisement about their operations with the public.” (Souza, 2004; 31) In agreement with this proposition, the enterprise must be disposed to hearing the society and working in the construction of its well-being.

2.8 Corporate Social Responsibility and Profitability

Whilst some authors defend Social Responsibility as a solution for organizations and society’s sustainability issues in the long-term, others are emphatic, affirming that it is not reasonable to imagine that the

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