Ethics, Technology, Sustainability, and Social Issues
BTM 7101, Assignment 4
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
19 February 2017
Creativity and innovation are two of the most integral characteristics which twenty-first century businesses must embody in order to achieve success in the modern markets. These two characteristics can often make the difference in subsistence and vitality. Corporations, both large and small, are discovering outlets for creativity and innovation through social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. There is a growing correlation between businesses putting the muscle of their resources behind these initiatives and achieving success in ways both tangible and intangible. In the following paragraphs, you will find a recommendation for one social responsibility initiative and one sustainability initiative, how the deployment of technology can assist you in these endeavors, some anticipated challenges associated with these initiatives, and who within the organization should be involved with this project.
Social responsibility and sustainability initiatives fall under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is a growing trend which is continually being embraced by a wider variety of businesses. In fact, CSR "is a priority item on the agenda of almost every business organization." (Babin, 2011) One of the primary factors driving this business priority is "society’s rising demand for corporations to be more environmentally and socially responsible." (Persons, 2012) With this in mind, I would strongly urge you to consider adopting a corporate sustainability initiative. One example of this, which I would recommend for your business, is a sustainability initiative centering around African villages with little or no access to clean water. Your corporation should target a specific village and site to install two clean water wells, and then "engage its employees actively in all of its sustainability initiatives." (Thorpe, 2013) Across the entire organization, from top to bottom, every employee should be actively engaged in the sustainability initiative. This provides the necessary spark which will not only motivate your own employees, but also inspire the local community as well. One business leader, speaking of such sustainability initiatives, said, "we believe that setting a good example is the greatest benefit in that we inspire other organizations, companies and individuals to 'up their game' when it comes to social and environmental responsibility, which in turn encourages further inspiration in the community leading to a more enlightened perspective on how to run ones business or lead one’s life.” (Thorpe, 2013)
In a similar fashion, the adoption of a social responsibility initiative has proven tremendously successful when paired alongside a corporate sustainability initiative. Many companies are donating a portion of their profit to local and national charities and provide a growing presence at local volunteer events. If the recommendation of this "Wells in Africa" sustainability initiative is adopted, then I would urge you to strongly consider donating a portion of your company profits to a reputable non-profit organization which excels in the area of clean water initiatives. Fellow businessmen who oversee companyies of similar size and structure to your own are discovering that adopting such CSR initiatives has attracted clients who "want to work with us because we are focused on a healthier and more productive world." (Thorpe, 2013) Furthermore, these same business leaders are discovering that these initiatives not only have a positive impact on the surrounding community and their clients but also, and, arguably, most importantly, on their existing personnel. In a recent survey of fifty-nine business owners, the results about the benefits of CSR on their own employees were quite impressive. The individual conducting the research noted that, "while each company I interviewed had varying responses for the benefits of CSR and cause marketing for the company, 51 of 59 believe that they have happier employees and 45 of the 59 believe they end up with better employees, either as a result of being able to attract better talent or that the CSR programs help to develop better employees." (Thorpe, 2013)
As for the implementation of these initiatives, a reasonable timeline of anywhere from six to twelve months would be advisable. This provides plenty of time to formulate a workable implementation plan and coordinate approval with the agencies and organizations involved. Additionally, this allows for provisions to be made for what will prove undoubtedly to be the greatest obstacle: the use of technology and appropriate training for technological staffing.
Technology provides you the greatest means of communication and dissemenation of your adopted CSR initiatives. Take, as an example, many of today's most successful Global Information Technology Outsourcing (GITO) companies. Research is proving that most of the world's leading GITO providers are striving to "meet emerging global CSR standards and many have produced elaborate CSR documents that can be downloaded from their Web sites." (Babin, 2011) In other words, the GITO providers of the world are deploying technology to their advantage by making their initiatives – and the degree to which those initiatives are being accomplished – widely distributed, easily accessible, and readily available.
While technology allows for expedited success, greater dissemenation, rapid communication, and increased corporate participation, the implementation of technology with data storage and transmission is accompanied with challenges. When technology is used to store and transmit sensitive data, the need for ethical oversight and operation of the data is paramount. Examples of such data might include the amount given toward a CSR initiative by a given individual, or sensitive communication with clients and donors about the initiatives. In any case, "problems like data security and privacy are more than technical questions or issues of potential liability; they demand that people handling sensitive information have a sense of doing the right thing." (Brooks, 2010) While in some instances, the mishandling of technology and data is not carried out with malicious intent but, rather, is an act of ignorance on the part of the employee, many times the anonymity afforded by technology lends itself to knowingly unethical handling of technology and data. As one author noted, "with computers and networks being so ubiquitous and accessible in today's workplace, the numbers of people who might knowingly perform an inappropriate act with them has grown rapidly." (Brooks, 2010) This fact highlights another recommendation associated with the implementation of CSR initiatives: mandated ethical training for employees who will be handling or overseeing technology within your company. Employees educated and trained in information technology will be highly skilled and competent, and "with the power and the skills to access such large amounts of data comes the need for ethical employees." (Brooks, 2010) Possibly even more concerning, evidence and data suggest that such acute knowledge and technological prowess seem to lend itself to deception. One study concluded that "it appears that the more savvy the population becomes in developing and using technology, the greater the risk that it will be used in a detrimental way against individuals, organizations, or society in general." (Brooks, 2010)
In an international context, China has recently experienced a rise in the frequency of crime regarding willful mishandling of data and technology. Their solution: the implementation of ethics education and training. In Chinese universities "faculty from both Chinese and non-Chinese universities are increasingly recruited to help teach ethics and to give advice on incorporating ethics into existing professional programs; this is especially true in disciplines where recent public scandals have demonstrated a pressing need." (Murphy, 2016) These scandals also highlight an additional, and very practical, challenge for the business in that ethical failures are not simply remedied or resolved with additional training. "While additional training may be appropriate for quality violations, ethical violations often require a different kind of response, including the loss of a job or certification." (Spector, 2016)
If an existing information technology outsourcing company already has ethical training and education that has proven successful, this may be a more advantageous option for the company as opposed to trying to develop your own training. One additional potential benefit of outsourcing information technology is that "buyers and providers who collaborate on CSR initiatives create strong business value in the outsourcing relationship, and create social value for the communities in which they operate." (Babin, 2011)
As discussed, the implementation of CSR initiatives in the form of sustainability and social responsibility initiatives provide tremendous benefits to the company, its employees, the surrounding community, and new clients. The adoption of the above recommended projects in the next six months to one year would create a huge boost in ways tangible and intangible; an increase in profit margin as well as a value-driven corporate culture which results in increased employee morale. The deployment of technology for the purpose of information dissemination, rapid communication, and wider participation will be advantageous as well. However, the risk associated with technology will potentially outweigh the benefit of utilizing its capabilities without also implementing ethical education and training for technological employees.
My recommendation is to take full advantage of these initiatives outlined above. As John G. Taft, great-grandson of President Taft and CEO of RBC Wealth Management-USA stated, "Employees and customers want to work with a company that they respect." (Thorpe, 2013)
Babin, R., Briggs, S., & Nicholson, B. (2011). Emerging Markets Corporate Social Responsibility and Global IT Outsourcing. Communications of the ACM, 54(9), 28-30. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Brooks, R. (2010). The Development Of A Code Of Ethics: An Online Classroom Approach To Making Connections Between Ethical Foundations And The Challenges Presented By Information Technology. American Journal of Business Education, 3(10), 1-13. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Murphy, M. J. (2016). Ethics Education in China: Censorship, Technology and the Curriculum. Teaching Ethics, 16(2), 233-241. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Persons, O. (2012). Incorporating corporate social responsibility and sustainability into a business course: A shared experience. Journal of Education for Business, 87(2), 63-72. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Spector, M. J. (2016). Ethics in educational technology: Towards a framework for ethical decision making in and for the discipline. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(5), 1003-1011. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Thorpe, D. (2013, May 18). Why CSR? The Benefits Of Corporate Social Responsibility Will Move You To Act. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/05/18/why-csr-the-benefits-of-corporate-social-responsibility-will-move-you-to-act/#3fb05e775e1c
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