The article examines the extent to which the most successful companies in Romania and Ghana - emerging countries - practice corporate social responsibility and the way CSR is communicated through the corporate websites and CSR/annual reports. The authors analysed whether CSR is integrated in the companies` strategy, what are the most important categories of stakeholders addressed, in what way do companies report their CSR activity and which are the main differences and similarities between Romania and Ghana. The data covered the top 20 companies in both countries with a total sample of 40 most valuable companies. The results show that community is represented as primary stakeholders. Also, there are few companies that have a CSR report and others include social aspects in their annual reports. The findings indicate that corporate social responsibility is still in the infant stage in Romania and especially Ghana and has different representation among industrial sectors.
Key words: Corporate Social Responsibility, annual reports, Romania, Ghana, stakeholders.
The debate on Corporate Social Responsibility is gaining stronger roots in developed economies, with companies exploring better ways of disclosing CSR news to their stakeholders. This is so, not least because these companies are aware of the effect of their activities on the people, communities and the environment (Frederick et al., 1992). However the same cannot be said of emerging, developing and least developing countries.
We focused on Romania and Ghana. Both countries share some common characteristics in the stages of their national development within respective continents. In both countries, the websites and the financial reports of the top 20 listed companies are chosen and examined over 5 year period to find the extent of the disclosure of corporate social responsibility issues. The findings of this study concluded that CSR as a concept has not gained much relevance in the boardroom of even the largest companies in emerging and developing economies. Only few companies report on CSR issues sufficient to merit any serious consideration.
CSR in Romania. Social Responsibility in Romania started to have a prominent place in recent years and is either seen as a management approach, or associated with public relations. We can say that social responsibility in Romania is a corporate effort situated on the border between complying with explicit requirements of society and employing proactive measures in addressing community and stakeholders‟ issues.
In 2008 Romania was for the first time included in the international study on social responsibility conducted by KPMG on a sample of 2200 companies worldwide. In Romania, a significant result was that there is a huge difference in how multinational companies publish social responsibility reports and Romanian companies which pay less attention to this issue. This means that the main role in encouraging social responsibility and its disclosure is for multinational companies, which implement in their Romanian branches the values and global strategies in this area.
In 2005, the World Bank conducted a survey among companies on the Romanian market in order to identify managers' perceptions of social responsibility. The sample included 153 top companies in different industry sectors and sizes. Results showed that more than half of managers surveyed believe the ethical dimension as being most important in socially responsible activities. In addition the study identifies transparent communication, establishing partnerships with stakeholders and compliance as significant parts of the concept. In the managers‟ view a company‟s role in society is to create profit, provide jobs, provide health and safety, and environmental protection. The majority of respondents said that the most important category of stakeholders is represented by the shareholders, then consumers and employees. These results highlight that in Romania, companies are mainly focused on internal dimension (shareholders, employees) that links directly to the work performed. However, most respondents considered that the intensification of dialogue with all relevant stakeholders helps the improvement of social and environmental practices in their operations.
Most Romanian managers do not realize a general need to implement socially responsible activities and take into account only the costs involved in such activities, ignoring the added value that could be obtained in the long term (Korka, 2005). The same author argues that current and future Romanian managers should improve their ability to properly understand the concept and integrate social responsibility into their strategies as they lead to long-term profit, competitive advantage, innovative thinking and a state of general "health" of the company.
Overall, we can talk about the following features seen in the discourse and practice of social responsibility in Romanian companies: (1) availability of companies to comply with applicable laws and fair and equitable treatment of recognized stakeholders, (2) addressing a predominantly economic perspective on corporate social responsibility to position it as a competitive advantage in the market, (3) representation of the community as the main stakeholder and beneficiary of the company‟s CSR activity and ignoring those stakeholders that influence to a lesser extent the company's business, (4) low strategic integration of corporate social responsibility (5) low effective coordination with the rest of the spectrum of social actors (6) preference for less expensive methods of CSR action at the organizational level (Chelcea, Baleanu and Stancu, 2011).
CSR in Ghana. A study by Hinson et al., (2010) of corporate responsibility activity reporting by the biggest banks in Ghana, found that the bank that won most of the CSR awards, for instance, had the poorest CSR communication content on its website. Similarly, Ketola, (2006) opines that CSR is insignificant in the operations of companies in Ghana, and that most of these companies‟ attitudes towards CSR are motivated by natural trait of feeling responsible rather than the consequence of any planned action. These were complimented by Ndzibah, (2008), who concluded that organisations in Ghana do not pay much attention to the impact of their activities on their stakeholders. This exploratory study, therefore, is aimed at contributing to the debate.
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