corporate social responsibility (CSR)

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(dharma) & “action” (karma). From a LR of C(SR) (from philosophical & religious perspectives), there are some studies made by scholars on Islam, Christianity ...

The concept of individual social responsibility (ISR), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and global social responsibility (GSR) from the Bhagavad-Gita (BG)


Swinburne University of Technology, Malaysia Email: [email protected]

Introduction 

This presentation reflects on the concept of ISR, CSR & GSR from the BG; with emphasis on “duty” (dharma) & “action” (karma).

From a LR of C(SR) (from philosophical & religious perspectives), there are some studies made by scholars on Islam, Christianity and Confucianism.

However, the BG (Vedanta), expect for few articles; is yet to be fully explored in the context of C(SR).

The Bhagavad-Gita (BG) The BG is a is a 700 verse Vedanta scripture that is part of the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata. The BG has exercised an enormous influence, in early times to North & South-east Asia & lately to the western countries. The BG is a dialogue between Sri Krishna & Arjuna in Kurukshetra (in 3102 B.C.); just prior to the Mahabharata war. Charles Wilkins translated the first English version of the BG in 1785 from the original Sanskrit version.

The BG starts with the word “dharma” & “dharma” is also the “karma” for socially responsible leaders.

Methodology Reflection from several readings of the BG & LR of C(SR) from philosophical & religious perspectives. Hermeneutics, is the interpretation of scriptures & classical literatures For the purpose of this presentation, the interpretation of selected verses from the BG; has been made to reflect on ISR, CSR & GSR. Hermeneutics is applied based on 4”I”s namely; Identification, Investigation, Interpretation & Integration (Muniapan, 2010).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that: “Corporate social responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.”

CSR from a Philosophical Perspectives 1 In the academic journals, there has been considerable research on the relationship between religious (philosophical) values & business (includes CSR) (Calkins, 2000; Epstein, 2002; Weaver & Agle, 2002; Zinkin & Williams, 2006; Beekun & Badawi, 2005 & Abuznaid 2005, 2009). There have been numerous conceptual studies which have linked & integrated the religious philosophies & scriptures such as the Bible & the Quran into business. (Tamari, 1990; Stackhouse et al, 1995; Epstein, 2002; Sacks, 2004; Zinkin, 2004, Zinkin & Williams, 2006). The conceptual work has also led to empirical research.

CSR from a Philosophical Perspectives 2 In the study by Brammer et al (2005) on religion & attitudes to CSR, data collected from a large cross country sample of over 17,000 individuals confirmed the notion that religious individuals do tend to hold broader conceptions of the social responsibilities of business than non-religious individuals. Research also suggests that the encouragement religious principles in business can lead to benefits in the areas of creativity, honesty & trust, personal fulfilment, & commitment, which will ultimately lead to increased corporate & business performance (Krishnakumar & Neck, 2002; Muniapan, 2009, Muniapan 2010). Among the world’s major religions, Christianity & Islam have received wider attention from a business & CSR perspective. The BG (Vedanta) however is yet to be explored in the context of CSR; therefore this presentation is timely as it fills the gap in the literature.

SR dharma from BG 1 Duty or dharma (to stakeholders) is given great importance in the BG. Sarva loka hitam referred to ‘wellbeing of stakeholders’.

There are four principal kinds of dharma known as chaturdharma which are highly relevant to SR namely; Rita dharma (GSR), Varna dharma & Ashrama dharma (CSR) and Svadharma (ISR). Rita dharma is the universal duty and the protection of the environment falls within this scope of rita dharma. The concept of global social responsibility (GSR) is derived from rita dharma which emphasised the need for corporation go beyond CSR.

SR dharma from BG 2 Varna dharma defines the obligations & responsibilities within the society, community & business & ashrama dharma which is the duties within the life stages are directly relevant to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Svadharma is according to one's own qualities (gunas), mental & emotional nature. Svadharma is determined by the sum of past karma & the cumulative effect of the other three dharmas. This is individual social responsibility (ISR) & ISR is intrinsically driven based on the individual consciousness of his or her responsibilities.

Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) ?

SR dharma from BG 3 The BG emphasizes that the individual & corporations should not run away from their dharma. The BG stressed that dharma needs to be done without attachment & for those who do their duty without attachment will attain the supreme goal - (B.G. 3.19). The BG promotes the concept of nishkama karma (B.G. 2.47); a perspective on action that emphasizes on action without attachment to the fruits thereof – & where both the action & the fruits are offered to the divine.

Concepts of Social Responsibility (SR) Global

(Rita Dharma -GSR)


(Sva Dharma - ISR)


(Varna & Asrama dharma - CSR)

SR karma from BG 1

“Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”

In BG, the law of karma (cause and effect) is expected to motivate the business people to carry out their duties to serve humanity (SR). This philosophy implies that the present nature of an individual’s life (effect) or organizations is determined by their previous actions (cause). Good karma need to be accumulated by business for long term benefits.

In the context of SR, organization should not only be interested in their own welfare but also the welfare of all stakeholders & society (sarva loka hitam).

SR karma from BG 2

“Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.” Bad karma (vikarma) which is due to the lust of the leaders, compels them to commit such unethical practices is the root cause of argument against SR.

As the fire is covered by smoke, as the mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the leaders are covered by different degrees of lust (BG, 3.38). Anyone who takes up a leadership position in SR must from the very beginning curb this great lust by regulating their senses (BG, 3.41).

Sthitaprajna: LEADERS must conquer their enemies within - lust, anger, greed, arrogance, envy & pride.

The Chariot Analogy - ISR In the chariot of the body, the five horses represent the five senses (tongue, eyes, ears, nose and skin). The reins, the driving instrument, symbolize the mind, the driver is the intelligence, & the passenger is the self. Leaders should be aware of their consciousness & use their intelligence to control the mind, they should not let the mind to be controlled by the senses.

SR Leadership from BG 1 The success & failures of any SR initiative can be attributed to leadership. If the leaders acts according to their dharma, then dharma (karma) itself will protect them (and their organizations). The leaders needs to set example to their people or followers as whatever the leader does, the people will follow & whatever standards or example the leader sets people in general will follow (B.G. 3.21). Leadership focus must be on sreyas (good) rather than preyas (pleasant).

Conclusion In a nutshell, the BG suggests an inside-out approach to C(SR), which is development of the individual leader’s self conscience. BG begins with ISR, promotes CSR & latter goes to GSR which stands for the good of humanity social, cultural, moral & spiritual from global perspectives. These dharma’s are the karma’s to be performed by the individuals & corporate leaders.

Thank You

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