Table Speech


Corporate Social Responsibility and Vocational Ethics

Ocotber 13th,2004

Professor Shunji Kobayashi /
Head of the Corporate Ethics Research Institute of the Waseda University Commercial School

CRS(Corporate Social Responsibility) means a company’s response to the social expectations of the day. Vocational ethics are the behavioral rules required by the profession.

In other words, a corporation is unable to respond to its social responsibilities unless it understands the social expectations of the time. In this sense, the importance of social responsibility is being well understood as it is in the advanced nations of America and Europe.

Therefore we are now entering stage two where guidelines are being established for corporate social behavior. At this stage we must define exactly what a corporation’s social responsibility is.

This issue has not been taken up academically by legal experts. Some say that social responsibility starts where the law ends. But it is not clear where the law ends as court decisions tell. There are cases where the difference between a corporation’s legal responsibility and social responsibility is unclear.

In order to respond to society, we must first understand our changing society.
The marketing field is highly attunes to this issue, and we must listen to the experts in this field.

Vocational ethics pertains to the rules of behavior required by the profession, and is a matter of being high or low. These past several years the attitude of taxi drivers has improved radically. I use taxis almost daily, and have not had an unpleasant experience. Although the reasons for this are the larger number of taxis causing more intense competition, I believe the main reason is improved education by the taxi company’s managers. This shows that setting and following ethical rules can improve matters. Starting with personal ethics which leads to organizational ethics then social ethics which will eventually lead to world ethics, with personal ethics being influenced by world ethics.

However, we must take care that, for instance, ecological ethics leading to eco-fascism which we must avoid.

Today, every profession requires a social viewpoint. The age when a craftsman was able to lose himself in his own small world has gone. Even master craftsman are bonded to society by taxes, pensions, etc. and therefore must consider his relations with society at large. It is with this consciousness that enables a person to discharge his social responsibilities.

According to various surveys, a corporation’s ethics are just as high as the President’s.

Therefore his principles on the matter are vital. With management’s activities being ethical, a company can be reformed.

The term ‘class’ may seem to be out of step with the times in Japan, but in the social sciences, ‘class’, ‘race’ and ‘’gender’ are the 3 keywords, to which I would like to add a fourth, ‘ethics’.

Until now, ethics were required for professionals such as doctors, CPA’s, lawyers, etc., but today this is required of all working persons.

In commercial areas, there are places which are flourishing, and places which are not. Those doing well are those in which the merchants get together to activate their area. They have persons who consult with NPO’s to strengthen their ties with their social environment. Without social consciousness, this does not happen.

Many corporations have made manuals for corporate behavior. But one can go too far in this regard, and it is vital that each employee shares the management’s vision of social responsibility and has a grand design.

Furthermore, the family is important for vocational ethics, and a well- balanced family is required for a person to do his job with security.

Generally speaking, in America to be ethical is to reform. To carry out one’s social responsibility through vocational ethics is to reform society in a desirable manner.