Social responsibility involves taking actions that help advance society. A socially responsible organization attempts to remain ethical, putting morals ahead of profits. There are four approaches that businesses take in order to be more responsible. Some businesses are obstructive or defensive, while others are accommodating or proactive. Companies that take an obstructive approach demonstrate far less social responsibility than those that are more proactive about social responsibility.
A company that takes an obstructive stance toward social responsibility attempts to defend its economic priorities by blocking any attempts to point out the company's lack of social responsibility. An obstructive company does not make social responsibility an effort, instead making profits the most important aspect of its business. Some people view obstructive businesses as immoral since they may exploit their employees, pollute natural lands or deceive customers. When faced with specific social demands, obstructive companies often deny any wrongdoing and may even use obstacles to deliberately delay or divert investigation of their practices.
In most cases, companies that take a defensive stance towards social responsibility are not particularly responsible. These companies may consider themselves neutral, and they make profits a more important motive than performing actions in a socially responsible way. These companies make a point of following the law to ensure that others cannot take legal action against them. For example, a company may create more waste than necessary, but it will remove the waste in a legal method rather than dumping it illegally.
An accommodating stance signifies that a company believes social responsibility is important -- and perhaps as important as making a profit. These companies satisfy all legal requirements and attempt to meet ethical standards. An accommodating company does not attempt to hide its actions and remains open about why it takes specific actions. For example, it may decrease its creation of waste, source products that are not tested on animals and pay its employees a fair wage. The company would keep its records open to the public. Though these companies are often socially responsible, they may change their policies in response to criticism.
Like an accommodating company, a proactive company makes social responsibility a priority, even if doing so cuts into their profits. Instead of reacting to criticism, a proactive company attempts to remain ahead of the curve when it comes to social responsibility. It may make ethics part of its mission statement and attempt to avoid any harm to the environment or its employees. A proactive company may go out of its way to institute new recycling programs, give all of its employees a living wage and benefits, and donate a portion of its profits to charity.