Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

BUSINESS ETHICS AND CSR 3

BusinessEthics and Corporate Social Responsibility

BusinessEthics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Theinformation age has shaped not only economic aspects of the society,but also the social spectrum. Who’sSorry Now? providesthought-provoking insights on how the information age has transformedthe ethical world and the risks associated with efforts thatcorporates, politicians, and public institutions take to contain apublic relations disaster. The documentary has interviews ofcommunications and public relations experts who explore issues aboutpublic relations disaster management in the information age wherepeople get information at the tap of a screen or click of a button. They include: Allan Mayer, an expert in strategic communication,Harlan Loeb, an expert in corporate enterprise risk management,Michael Sitrick, a corporate advisor and CEO of Sitrick and Company,Alison Fitzgerald, an author in corporate ethics, and Barry Levine,the executive editor of TheNational Enquirer.

Theopinions of interviewees and words of public figures involved inpublic relations disasters reveal one vital aspect: it is importantto express remorse no matter the gravity of the allegations. Expressing remorse is important in showing the public that thecorporate entity, the political figure, the sportsman, or theinstitution cares about the welfare of the public. However, theinterviewers point out another important aspect: the public is moreinterested in the future than the present. As Alison Fitzgerald saysin the interview, ““We all do want to forgive, but most peoplecannot forgive unless they feel the other person has now apologized,understands what they did and is worthy of being forgiven.”

Whicheverthe magnitude of the damage the company may have caused to people,anapology is very important. However, how an entity presents theapology is very important because it relieves the public angertowards it. The admittance of responsibility can be active orpassive. The level of sympathy in the expression of remorse couldalso be low or high. According to the Allan Mayer’s assertionsactive apologies and a tone that shows high sympathy are effective.He says,

“Whatpeople really need to see is the theater of repentance. That you havesuffered”

Inhis apologies during the BP oil spill scandal that cost the company,the CEO said,

“Weare sorry for the massive disruption of their lives. There is no onewho wants this thing over more than I do. I would like my life back.”

AllisonFitzgerald’s assertions that a scapegoat is very important in apublic relations crisis are agreeable. Victims and the public oftenprefer apologies that take on specifics such as the person directlyresponsible, the actions to avoid the problem again and if possiblesome resignations.A scapegoat, therefore, provides the person who isdirectly responsible whether real or fixed so that the public andvictims do not view the company as hoodwinking on their plight.Active apologies are important in saving the image of theorganization because they show a recognition and respect for people’sfeelings and losses. Hence, apologies without actions are futile.The company must show that it is taking measures to alleviate thesituation. For example, a public relations crisis such as oil spillsor destructive fires the company must show that it is takingappropriate actions to mitigate the losses of property and livesregardless of the cost. The communications teams also need to showthe public that there are long-term and constructive strategiestoward preventing a repeat of the same.