Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents “A firm’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment, (both ecological and social) in which it operates and draws resources and sustenance from. Firms express this citizenship through their waste and pollution reduction processes, by contributing to the educational and social programs and by earning adequate returns on the employed resources” (Business Dictionary).
This definition identifies the companies’ role in sustaining CSR initiatives and their contributions to the welfare of the community. Frederick, Davis and Post define the companies’ sense of responsibility and their interventions in the society’s problems as a “voluntary aid – actions to promote the social good”. (1988, p. 37).
According to recent studies, implementing Corporate Social Responsibility programs within the firms’ strategy it is not only a business trend, but a real necessity, nowadays, in order to remain competitive on the market. This business tool integrates both the consumer and the employees’ perceptions regarding the companies’ strategies. Existent studies have identified a direct relation between the companies’ corporate citizenship programs and their productivity, plus the customers’ positive appreciation (Rodrigo and Arenas 2008, p. 267).
Strategic philanthropy is defined by Paul Davis Jones and Cary Raymond (quoted by Wilcox and Ault) as “the long-term socially responsible contribution of dollars, volunteers, products, and expertise to a cause aligned with the strategic business goals of an organization.” They also refer to the strategy of philanthropy as a long – term investments (money, volunteers, products and expertise) and gaining some benefits: “strengthened reputation and brand recognition; increased media opportunities; improved community and government relations; facilitation of employee recruitment and retention; enhanced marketing; access to research and development; increased corporate profitability” (2001, p. 474).
Environmental Considerations and Recommendations
The current paper develops a corporate social responsibility plan for General Architecture, a company located in United States, San Francisco, specialized in providing architectural services to construction companies, both residential and office buildings.
The construction domain and architecture, implicitly, are very much exposed to the environmental concerns. Through their activities, the responsible of designing and constructing residential or office buildings, impact the environment in various ways: either through an uncontrolled and imbalanced rhythm of consuming the natural resources, either through a disorganized placement of the utilized goods and a lack of saving the un-needed resources, which leads to waste.
Waste is a severe consequence in the activity of any company, because it loses important resources that could be re-integrated in different other processes and would create an economy for the company which would not have to invest in purchasing new materials. In the same time, waste is a real danger for companies and for the environment, as it affects the quality of life and it impacts the nature. The residues are a result of the non-managed waste and in architecture and construction this is a commonly met aspect.
General Architecture confronts with this problem in its projects and the environmental concern has been an aspect regularly neglected by this company and by its construction partners, as their main interest was focalized in meeting the deadlines and the milestones set in finalizing the projects, in order to satisfy the customers, the end – users. But while triggering to satisfy the customers, the company and its partners had little consideration for satisfying the public opinion and the local administrations’ regularities regarding the environment concerns. This is why the company might have attracted the satisfaction of its customers, but it also attracted an air of disapproval for its practices from behalf of the public opinion and public authorities involved in protecting the environment.
Therefore, the company’s profits are increasing on a short – term, because due to the penalties that its conduct that neglects the environment attracts, and as a result of the negative wave of distrust coming from the public opinion, the company losses its credibility and its brand equity also decreases and this implies a downfall of profits and of market – share on a long term.
Legal and Regulatory Considerations and Recommendations
The plan will be considering the legislation concerning the environment sustainability in San Francisco, as the company will have to comply with the regulations imposed, first of all. Second, there will be followed actions that were developed by companies activating in the same sector, in order to work with the same instruments, becoming competitive in this sub activity (environment protection) and in order to get inspired, for creating new and innovative solutions to save resources, to manage waste and to create good conditions for the quality of life. Moreover, the plan also implies promoting the company as a social actor, active in sustaining and promoting the environment sustainability through its corporate social responsibility program.
The “San Francisco General Plan” militates for a clean and healthy environment in the urbanization area, which should not be limited to the man – made space, but it should also consider the protection of plant and animals, through assuring the quality of land, air and water. Managing waste, avoiding the pollution and protecting the natural environment through conserving as much as possible the natural resources represent the core objectives of this General Plan. Significant aspects of this plan refer to the energy consumption, the conservation of the natural resources or the management of the hazardous waste (“San Francisco General Plan”).
These are important aspects to be treated, as they represent the activity of the analyzed company. As an architecture firm, General Architecture designs and projects light panels, light bulbs, light pillars, or any other sources of light and energy. This is significant, because the design of these light sources might impact the environment or, on the contrary, could be harmoniously integrated into the entire architecture of the building and could eliminate the unnecessary light consumption. There are various forms of light pollution that appear in architecture projects, if not properly managed, such as light spill, sky glow or glare (Narisada&Schreuder, 2004).
The inadequate orientation of artificial light can lead to light spills, which is the main factor that produces the sky glow effect. The sky glow, glare, and any source of artificial light misdirected, represent a serious danger for entire ecosystems. The light spills represent unpleasant consequences of using lights, or strong lights for illuminating buildings during nighttime, as it is directed in adjacent properties, or directly into the sky, affecting the quality of life (Narisada and Schreuder, 2004).
Narisada and Schreuder also promote the idea of orienting the light upon singular objectives, for reducing the light spills:
“To realize an outdoor lighting installation with a high energy efficiency, but at the same time with a minimum of light pollution, () utilize the luminous flux emitted from the luminaires as much as possible, and aim it to the directions where lighting is necessary.” (2004, p. 447).
For reducing the electricity use and the risk of light pollution for the exterior lighting, the San Francisco authorities set regulations that offer clear indications regarding the anticipated lifetime operational costs of home appliances, through imposing labels that need to be followed. The plan also recommends that this regulation should be used together with an educational plan of making consumers aware of their real energy requirements, determining them to reduce their energy and electricity needs (San Francisco General Plan).
As for the General Architecture organization, following the San Francisco regulation should be mandatory, considering that there are also audit teams that test the applicability of the regulations and the viability of new buildings to reduce the energy consumption. The architecture company should be very attentive to the recommendations also, as including them into the architectural plan will make the difference and will make General Architecture a social responsible and a reliable actor, investing in the wellbeing of the community.
Organizational Viability and Sustainability Considerations and Recommendations
Organizational viability is a term that defines the alignment of the company’s mission with its activities. This implies integrating the company’s mission throughout its structures, in the job description of the employees activities and in the objectives that they have to meet within their day to day work (Bedell, 2010).
General Architecture needs to integrate the social corporate responsibility actions within its mission and follow them through its activities. In this sense, the company must be focused in positioning itself as an environmental friendly organization, supporter of the social causes, oriented towards the protection of the environment and the conservation of the natural resources. These actions should be implemented in the activities that the company unfolds.
In architecture, sustainability for the environment refers first of all to the use and maintenance of the materials utilized in construction, aiming for their long – term value. Scholars state the significance of incorporating the proper materials in the structures of the buildings, pointing that it is imperative to design buildings in a resource – conserving manner (Wasserman, Sullivan & Palermo, 2000). This discussion also implies a great consideration for the reintegration of the already used resources, in a secondary life cycle, through the process of recyclability.
Conserving resources implies a close consideration on the natural resources, raw materials being the main concern for the environmentalist. While people are constantly building and the living requirements have increased and diversified, there is also an increased consumption of the natural resources or raw materials. The rhythm of utilizing these materials is faster than their regeneration and this usually leads to the exhaustion of the resources.
It is therefore imperative for the architecture to design solutions for the reintegration of used resources into new materials, in order to prolong the resources’ lifetime and conserving in this time the natural resources (Ekins, 2000).
The “San Francisco General Plan” discusses about incorporating energy management practices into buildings in order to conserve the energy. The plan includes creating building energy audits in order to maintain the energy consumption from the sources of heating, ventilation, air conditioning or lighting at a certain level. The General Plan also recommends sustainable projects, such as building and incorporating solar water heating systems, offering as example the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park.
According to the “San Francisco General Plan”, the inhabitants of San Francisco invest highly in the energy consumption, in addition to the huge amounts that they spend on housing. The plan focuses not only on reducing the prices of the utilities, but also on reducing the consumption of natural resources. It also states that in the state of California there have been adopted energy standards for new residential buildings, which will consume 40% less energy. Including solar water heating systems, operational skylights for bringing the daylight into the building and the ventilation or the recovery of waste heat into the new buildings are several examples of reaching the 40% energy consumption reduction (“San Francisco General Plan”).
Employing recycled materials, or durable resources, for instance, are ways to contribute to the environmental sustainability, when designing a building. In his study, Kennedy discusses about the sustainable development by comparing the traditional buildings with post-industrial constructions. The author illustrates that from the oldest times, people have utilized the materials from their proximity to build houses, in the traditional world. This has positive aspects, the author suggests, because the inhabitants of the traditional areas offer and maintain an equilibrium to the space they live in, by sustaining the cycles of life of the natural resources around them (2004).
Such social responsibility strategies would be recommended for General Architecture company in order to promote its mission, which would speak for its organizational viability. Following this new organizational strategy is meant to bring consolidated brand equity, making General Architecture a well-known actor in the field of corporate social responsibility. Nevertheless, in order to be prepared to pursue this new strategy, the company must undertake a risk assessment, calculating the success variation versus the potential drawbacks or variables that might cause a loss in the company’s long – term profit, its image, or that might prejudice the success of implementing the organizational viability model for properly implementing the corporate social responsibility actions (for environmental sustainability) within its mission and throughout its activities.
Such risks could be identified at the supplier chain’s level. As such, General Architecture could search for the most suited materials to meet its objectives of protecting and conserving the environment, but it could find a real difficulty in what its suppliers are offering. Regarding the recyclability of the materials, again, the company could identify the risk of not finding suitable partners with whom to work, in order to disintegrate the used materials and to extract the resources that have passed through a life cycle but that still have the potential to be integrated within another life stage, as they are not exhausted.
The company should indicate to its targeted groups (customers and potential customers, public authorities, public opinion, NGO groups) that it is a sustainer of the environmental protection and that through its mission, politics, its values and its actions it promotes and contributes to environment sustainability. Only through consistent actions, by conducting social responsibility campaigns (as recommended in this section), promoted correctly towards its targeted groups, will the company maintain its organizational viability.
Ethical Leadership Considerations and Recommendations
In this respect, it should develop a code of conduct, promoting it on its website and internal and external materials (flyers, brochures) including it in its organizational mission and inserting it through all the levels of organizations, through trainings, reunions, and one to one or group meetings and even through an informal approach. The code of conduct should refer to the company’s ethical approach on the environment and it should stipulate activities that the company and its employees should undertake in order to become more responsible regarding the environment.
Moreover, General Architecture should design a corporate social responsibility plan, which to include investing in environmental friendly causes. For instance, designing the plantation of trees in the close proximity of the constructed buildings, or green roofs on the top of the buildings are sustainable actions and the company could become a leader on the local architecture market through this type of consolidated and integrated actions.
The roof gardens are also called “green roofs”, because they support the environmental sustainability cause, or “living roofs”, because of the vegetation that grows on them. In addition to protecting buildings from sun and lights effect, the roof gardens also absorb the rain water.
“Green roofs reduce heat transfer between building and outside environment. Reduction in heat transfer lead to energy savings and cost reduction for the building owners.” (Nedlaw, “Living Roofs”).
In order to generate the sense of cohesion and to transmit that the entire team of General Architecture adheres to the corporate social responsibility causes, there should also be implemented actions meant to involve the employees (the company’s internal stakeholders) in the environmental causes – such as planting the trees outside the buildings, as previously designed. This would bring positive brand engagement from the employees, who can become brand ambassadors of General Architecture, while promoting its causes and its implication in environmentally friendly actions. For an increased awareness regarding their environmental sustainability, the company could design an online program, where it can teach people how to save energy, by utilizing architectural models that the company also uses. Also, practical lessons, held in parks or shopping centers would be real opportunities for the company to indicate its interest in protecting the environment, through conserving the natural resources, and teaching others to become responsible about their energy or natural resources consumption. These should be pro – bono actions, where other volunteers could join.
The company is recommended to consolidate annual pro – environment plans. This would imply having a dedicated person responsible for the CSR program developed within the company, who should apply internal trainings in order for the employees to understand the company’s policy regarding the environment and to sustain it. The plans should follow the external promotion of the company’s actions and the creation of events meant to express General Architecture’s mission in protecting the environment.
General Architecture’s environmental sustainability should start initially through affiliating to CSR causes, not initiated by the company, setting its statement and its interest in protecting and conserving the environment. Gradually, the company should implement its own corporate social responsibility programs, determining other social actors to join its causes. General Architecture should begin its CSR program internally, by determining its employees to adhere to the environmental causes. With the support of the internal stakeholders, the company can externalize its plans, by designing social responsibility campaigns, indicating its interest towards the environmental causes.
The company needs constant and continuous dedication to CSR causes, focalized on environment. In order to be able to develop a structured plan for its CSR campaigns, it should hire professional help that should provide expertise for the company in this field.
As the involvement of the company should be sustainable, the results will come, maybe not suddenly, but on a long term the company will have only but to gain, because it saves materials by recycling and reintegrating the used resources into new materials and because it will gain the adherence of its social partners, strengthening its brand equity.
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