To answer this, we first need to define what it means for a business to be “socially responsible.” I would define this as going above and beyond what the law requires to do things that will help the community as a whole. In other words, a business which just follows the law is not being socially responsible. If, for example, a business pays its workers no less than the minimum wage, it is not being socially responsible. However, if it voluntarily pays low-skilled workers a wage higher than the minimum, it is probably being socially responsible.
My answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. I would argue that a business should be socially responsible if it can do so without hurting itself too much. In a capitalist system, the main purpose of a business is to make money for those who own it. It is not a non-profit or a foundation that is set up in order to benefit society. If a business does too much to promote social responsibility, it might destroy its ability to make a profit. For example, imagine if McDonald’s raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour and then has to raise prices on its food. People might stop eating there as much and McDonald’s could end up losing a lot of money. If that is the case, McDonald’s should not be “socially responsible” in this way because it will end up hurting its owners excessively.
But what if a business can be socially responsible without harming itself excessively? In that case, it should be socially responsible. For example, Wal-Mart has recently announced that it will be raising its workers’ wages. What if it does this and its profits go down somewhat, but not by a huge margin? I would say that it should be responsible. I would also say that it should advertise the fact that it is being responsible. This might cause people to have good feelings about Wal-Mart, go shop there more, and thereby help Wal-Mart so that it does not lose too much money by being responsible.
Businesses are part of our society so they should want our society to prosper. However, the main way they can help our society is by providing jobs, not by providing charity. Businesses should only be socially responsible if they can do so without hurting their ability to create jobs.