Business folk pride themselves in their creativity and independent thought. However, one glaring exception is CSR Conformity. In business circles Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a major source of Groupthink and conformist behaviour.
Companies may initially give in to activist pressure to partake in CSR, some may actually believe they are doing the right thing. But eventually CSR solidifies itself within a corporation, with no one questioning it. CSR conformity and groupthink then develops, preventing independent thought and intellectual diversity.
Normative CSR Conformity
Typically, employees and managers want to fit in to the ‘organizational culture’ of the company. New employees and job applicants being interviewed especially try to conform. This fear of rejection consolidates existing cultures and processes, preventing new ideas from entering the company.
Even if an employee privately disagrees with CSR programs, they may not offer criticism. It is difficult to question a ‘doing good’ quasi-charity program, lest you be accused of being an evil greedy capitalist. Many organizations are in desperate need of fresh thinking. Their CSR programs may be wasteful and counter-productive, but no one dares question them. Doing so will question your ‘fit’ within the organizational culture.
Informational CSR Conformity
New or junior employees look to senior staff as role models. Challenging their ideas or pre-existing programs is difficult. Many employees take the easier path, and internalize the company’s practices into their beliefs. This is a case of ‘believing your own PR & propaganda’. The cute CSR images designed to trick consumers and appease activists, end up fooling internal employees. Managers who spend corporate money on CSR begin to believe they are actually saving the world.
Ingratiational CSR Conformity
Businesses doing CSR to impress customers are conducting ‘ingratiational’ CSR conformity. Companies pretend to be motivated by the ideals of the customers, and not by profit. This supposedly gains favour from consumers which increases profit.
For example, if western consumers value environmental protection, then companies will conform to that ideal. Corporations operating in less elegant cultures may conform to those values as well. Throughout the world corporations have conformed to corruption, racism, sexism, Nazism, communism, etc.
CSR usually fails to appease critics, so conforming to left-wing activists by pretending to support their cause is wasteful and counter-productive.
Is conformity good for business or society?
Companies that conduct CSR activities are usually just conforming to social pressure. This pressure comes from critics of capitalism, and consumers who expect their products decorated with ‘social responsibility’.
Businesses that participate in this conformism are handicapping themselves. CSR encourages groupthink since employees are reluctant to criticize well-meaning social programs. Also, many corporate managers have gone from seeing CSR as an advertising tool to actually believing the hype.
Finally, businesses are too eager to abandon the principles of capitalism and conform to every fad of society. It may seem innocuous when businesses conform to the sophisticated tastes of the western bourgeois. But in the same way, businesses will conform to backwardness and corruption in other parts of the world.
Businesses are built through creative and critical thinking. Democratic society is also improved through a willingness to question the norm, regardless of how well-intentioned. Conformity and groupthink are dangerous for both business and society in general.
Unfortunately for many, CSR represents the path of least resistance.