Business Ethics
Dissertation: Attitudes of the Management Students towards Corporate Social Responsibility in ‘Royal Holloway, University of London’ (Part 1/5)

Chapter 1: Introduction

In this chapter, a brief overview of this dissertation will be provided. This chapter will provide the necessary introduction and background materials for the understandings of the materials presented in the next few chapters. This chapter is arranged as follow. Firstly, the research background for this dissertation will be outlined. This is important to set the context to understand why a study of attitudes of the management students towards Corporate Social Responsibility in ‘Royal Holloway, University of London’ is important and necessary. Next, the relevant research objectives for this dissertation will be outlined. Lastly, the rationales for conducting this research will also be presented.

1.1 Research Background

In the competitive business environment today, business managers are hard pressed to work hard to meet the expectations of various stakeholders, particularly towards the expectations of shareholders and directors. However, some of the business missions and expectations are high and over demanding, putting great pressures to the managers, and in certain circumstances, causing the managers to act unethically in order to meet the targets or expectations (Koehn, 2010). This is never an uncommon issue in the competitive business environment today. Just to cite a few examples, corporate scandals such as the frauds at Enron and Worldcom are something shocking to the public and investors, leaving huge damages to the society (Kulik et. al., 2008). Apart from that, it is found that one of the main reasons contributing to the financial crises (primarily due to subprime mortgage crisis and unethical packaging of derivatives by investment bankers) in the United States are due to unethical and irresponsible behaviours by business managers, executives and even regulators in the nations (Cuockley et. al., 2008). As discussed in great depth by Roubini (2010), due to greed factors and the need to hit Wall Street expectations, the many investment bankers, and worst, the rating agencies, that were supposed to be the watchdog for the investors, had been acting in a highly irresponsible manner – to rate the many toxic and high risk derivatives-based assets as AAA (i.e., rated as investment grade assets, that are supposed to be low risk in nature). The many investors, having neither the necessary knowledge, nor the skills to do so, simply loaded the toxic derivative-based assets into the portfolio. Ironically, many of these investors are institutional investors. Once the subprime borrower no longer able to serve the interest payment for their mortgages, many supposed to be investment grade mortgages backed securities defaulted – causing huge losses to the banks, financial institutions, and investors. And of a sudden, all hell broke loose, and chain effects happened, to cause serious damages to the economy system, thereby giving rise to the Great Recession Era in 2008 – 2009 in the recent years. Sadly, it can be witnessed again and again that corporate scandals are simply recurring events – and had been bringing greater and greater harms to the society and the people around the world. All of these events bring crucial information to both scholars and the practitioners – business ethics is urgently required for sustainable development of economy, growth of businesses and to prevent corporations from acting selfishly to harm the public in the future. Today, corporations, companies, either big or small, are expected to behave ethically and in Corporate Social Responsible manner.

To combat the issues of unethical behaviours of executives in the competitive business environment is never something easy. There are people urging so that corporate governance of corporations to be strengthened, in order to prevent and to mitigate the risk of scandals or fraudulent activities in the corporations. In such a view, a strong corporate governance system will be able to mitigate the risks faced by the stakeholders (Arora et. al., 2011). From the other hand, other people are arguing that people should be educated and taught properly on the subjects of business ethics, so that people understand the importance and benefits of ethical behaviours and philosophy to the company performance, contribution to the society as well as sustainable business operations and growth in the new economy (Pedersen, 2010). Under such perspectives, it can be witnessed that business ethics are being taught in business schools, to convey and educate the business students about the needs of ethics and corporate social responsibilities in the business landscape today. Indeed, a review of the academic journals in the context of business management; it is obvious that words such as Corporate Social Responsibilities, corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility, sustainable responsible business and corporate social performance are popular buzz words used by scholars in stressing the needs for ethical thinking and behaviors among business entities.

In this dissertation, it is believed that the call for ethical behaviors and ethical reasoning should start in the school. It is believed that educations are crucial to shape business leaders of future generations that are ethical and socially responsible. Thus, studies to understand the students’ perceptions and their understandings on the concepts, and more importantly, the needs of Corporate Social Responsibility are important. It is very important to understand how the young generation thinks about the needs of ethical behaviors in business context – and if they really learn, taught or persuaded to believe in the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical behaviors from businesses. Their understandings and their beliefs, are simply too important to the world in the future – as they are the leaders of future generations in the next few decades.

1.2 Research Objectives

There are three research objectives to be fulfilled in this writing. These research objectives are outlined as follow.

  1. To understand the attitudes of students towards the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) in Royal Holloway, University of London.
  2. To investigate the minimum numbers of factors that can parsimoniously characterize the perceptions of students on Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) in Royal Holloway, University of London.

1.3 Research Rationales

The understandings, attitudes and behaviours of students towards Corporate Social Responsibilities are important because these students are the potential future business leaders and managers in the next few decades. Thus, their understandings and embracement of the concepts and philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) are impactful towards the community, society and even the natural environment in the future. The incorporation of ethical decision making process in business decision making and execution of any businesses by these future leaders will surely affect the business environment significantly in the future. Thus, it is important to understand if these students truly embrace the concepts and philosophy of CSR, and the degree of which they embrace the concepts or philosophy of CSR in the mind set or decision making process. If these students have the correct mind-sets and truly embrace and believe in the philosophy of CSR, it can be reasonably expected that the future generations of business leaders or managers will be more ethical and socially responsible in the conduct of corporations and businesses in the future. As such, it is crucial to understand if the business school really train up future managers that have consciousness, and awareness on CSR, are readily embracing the concepts of CSR and more likely to behave ethically or in the socially responsible manner. Lastly, by understanding on the perceptions of students on Corporate Social Responsibilities, companies today can adapt their CSR strategies accordingly to suit the demand from the young generations. This study can also serve as the prototype of similar study, probably of bigger scale in other part of the country, to understand the different people perceptions on CSR.

 

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