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In general, corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be seen as one aspect of business ethics. CSR is connected to business ethics, but the field of business ethics goes beyond CSR. In addition, actions can be ethical without being in accordance with CSR.
One way to define business ethics is to say that ethical actions by a business are those actions that are in accord with moral values. Actions that do not do this are unethical. This means that the subject of business ethics covers a wide range of topics. For example, business ethics might involve the issue of whether it is right to offer bribes in a country where bribery is endemic. It might also involve the issue of whether it is right to make advertisements that are misleading, though not actually false. In short, business ethics is about business people’s actions and whether those actions are good from a moral point of view.
CSR is one aspect of business ethics. CSR has to do with the firm’s actions and their impact on the community as a whole. When a firm acts in accordance with CSR, it is voluntarily trying to do things that will take into account the needs of all its stakeholders. For example, let us imagine that a trucking company wants to be environmentally conscious. It decides that it will do so by buying and operating trucks that have better fuel efficiency even if they are more expensive. It would not be unethical to buy the more common type of truck, but it is in accordance with CSR to buy a truck that goes above and beyond in terms of its impact on the environment.
So, we can say that business ethics is about doing what is morally right while CSR is about taking into account all of a firm’s stakeholders. The two are similar, but not identical.
I've always described ethics as manners and morals at work. Social responsibility just takes that a bit further to behaving ethically towards societal issues such as culture, economy, and environment.
The one environmental influence fresh on my mind is the world's largest oil spill by British Petroleum (BP) in the Gulf of Mexico. There was also a more recent oil spill by Noble Energy in Windsor, CO. Though not as big, still destructive.
Business ethics involves the standard norms of business practices and the question would be are they good or bad?. A consideration here would be how those practices impact the environment and their motives.
Social responsibility involves business interactions with the society apart from their core business how else do they add value to the society. Questions here would be do they give back to the community? Is the benefit to the society commensurate to the support offered?
It is possible for a business to practice or have one and not the other thus presenting a difference in the two.
Microsoft going green with its data centers is a good example. see link
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