What Is the Role of Business in Society?

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz strongly believes his corporation should do more than just make a profit. During Starbucks' 2016 meeting of shareholders, Schultz said social responsibility "is accretive adds value to shareholder value," according to an Inc. article. Learning how to create a strategic and effective corporate social responsibility program is part of the coursework for an online bachelor's degree in business.

In an almost 9-minute video, Schultz questions the roles of business, citizens' actions and their shared responsibilities to each other. Pushing his message even further, Schultz challenged the country to get back on track and to "embrace what it means to be Americans." The Seattle-based corporation had a "54 percent share price increase in 2015," according to the article, proving that consumers are willing to reward Starbucks for its socially responsible stance.

Corporate Social Responsibility Defined

According to Investopedia, corporate social responsibility is "a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups."

Corporations, ultimately have a choice: do good or not. Think of the damage to the environment from oil spills, or what happens when a product's true ingredients are revealed and they are different from what the brand claims in its advertising.

Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Walmart Take Action

Brands can take a stand against injustice as Coca-Cola did by threatening to relocate after Atlanta's business elite declined, at first, to attend a celebratory dinner for 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Because of Coke's ultimatum, Atlanta's business leaders changed their minds.

Schultz announced at Starbucks' 2016 meeting of shareholders that, effective immediately, all company-operated stores in the U.S. would donate "non-expired perishable food items." And he introduced FoodShare -- a new program to donate ready-to-eat meals to food banks.

Walmart joined other retailers in removing Confederate-related merchandise from shelves after nine African-Americans were gunned down in a 2015 racially motivated attack in Charleston, South Carolina, according to a BlackEnterprise.com article. The article praised Walmart, Sears, Target and Amazon for demonstrating "courage and conscience to remove representations of racial intolerance painful to legions of stakeholders -- employees, managers, corporate directors, suppliers, and, most especially, customers."

Nielsen Study Finds Consumers Care

A 2013 Nielsen study discovered 50 percent -- a 5 percent jump from the 2011 survey -- of all respondents indicated a willingness to support companies that are truly socially responsible. The respondents said they will shell out more of their hard-earned money to show their support for such brands. The 2013 online survey polled more than 29,000 people.

A study from the University of Iowa shows that a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility reduces the risk to a brand's stock prices when the economy weakens.

Learn about Corporate Social Responsibility with an Online Degree in Business

Through an online program for a bachelor's degree in business, you can enhance your knowledge of corporate social responsibility. The course Business and Society will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Deepen your knowledge of the roles brands play in society.
  • Highlight the history of business and society.
  • Cover current issues facing business and society.

A bachelor's degree in business provides students with the foundation and the tools to make sound business decisions that move beyond profit. This degree will help you obtain the skills that can make a difference in your career, your company and the world.

Learn more about LSUA's online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program.


Inc.: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's Strategy to Boosting Profits

Starbucks Coffee: Everyday Choices, YouTube video

Black Enterprise: Why Corporations Must Fly the Flag of Social Responsibility

Investopedia: What is 'Corporate Social Responsibility'

Business News Daily: Is Corporate Social Responsibility Worth All the Hype?

Nielsen: Do Consumers Care About Social Impact?

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