The Cultural Component of Global CSR

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Monica\'s article published in the Guide to Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility & Green RP, Volume 4

Monica\'s article published in the Guide to Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility & Green RP, Volume 4

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  • 1. Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR GLOBALIZATIONMonica Stevens, MSBA A global mentality is indispensable in todays Some of the main concerns regarding economic globalization are the corporate PR.very marked cultural differences between countries. Another worry are thediverse business practices, and the new approach to ethics that executivesmay have to take when dealing with other cultures. A global mentality is Corporations and small companies trying toindispensable in today’s corporate PR. do business with other countries require awareness of cultural differences when The fact is that many business people in the United States, who have presenting a product or service to othernever had the opportunity to travel to other countries, usually do not wonder cultures.whether they will encounter a different set of rules to conduct businessabroad, and this can create serious problems. In general, they wonderwhether the place will really have five-star hotels, whether it will be safe, What works at home, may not work wellwhether businesswomen are well accepted, and whether their foreign with others.counterparts will speak good English – but a new cultural approach is seldomtaken into account. Unfortunately, what works at home, may not work wellwith others. It is the customs, traditions, and attitude in Ethnicism, the doctrine that dictates that ethical ideas and behavior each country that count.are valid and important, is growing in business, in spite of criticism fromlocally established corporations that have been in operation for many years.Many of these companies find it difficult to cope and tend to resent the new, The key words to develop a global mindset isexpanded use of business ethics that local, federal, and state laws now flexibility.demand, and this is where effective global PR comes into action. In some countries with collective societies, for example, executivestend to look for the common good, more than individual l gain, and thisattitude is an important aspect of social responsibility and ethicism. Ethical business processes in the US have begun to play a very In some countries a business deal is personal.important role when deciding who to do business with at international levels.Corporate Responsibility includes new transparency, care for theenvironment, and a very important change: The ability to view negotiations,not as a competition, but as collaborative effort among companies andnations. In a way, many aspects of CSR are already present in most high-context societies like Italy, Latin America, and Japan. For example, Mexico isparty to international agreements such as Biodiversity, Climate Change,Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea,Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone LayerProtection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling. In order to improve CSR, corporations and small companies trying todo business abroad now require thorough knowledge of global culturaldifferences when presenting a product of service to other cultures. Even
  • 2. High-context cultures view negotiations as though there are quite a few books about other countries in the market, the vasta collaborative effort. majority provide mostly information about the countries’ tourist industries. This is not nearly enough to give an international executive the thorough knowledge and self-confidence required to successfully deal with business people from otherBody languages is more important thanverbal expression in high-context cultures, cultures. It is the customs, traditions, and attitudes in each country that count.such as China and Mexico. Sound global PR must be about the new country’s corporate etiquette, economy, social problems, traditions, and especially its political environment, to effectively comply with global CSR. Knowing about a country’s business practices,Monochronic cultures work based not on its food, holidays, family and religious views, and general culture allows executivesschedule but on task completion. to go through the appropriate channels to establish long lasting business relationships. The key word to develop a global mindset is flexibility. Believing that ourSome countries find it hard to say “no” way to conduct business is the only way is actually the surest way to damage aneven though they may not agree with otherwise successful negotiation. Just like other cultures speak differentwhat they hear. languages, eat other foods, and have different laws and traditions, they also have different views on what a business negotiation entails. A good example of different negotiating styles are countries like Latin America, Italy, and the Arab nations, where a business relationship begins once you have signed a contract. In other words, a business deal is personal, and it involves a long-term relationship. The concept of personalism is present at all times, and it plays an important role in the goodwill that these countries display when negotiating with other nations. These countries do not make a distinction between business and a personal relationship, which is the exact opposite of the US, where the contract is the culmination of the negotiations, and therefore, of any personal involvement with the other company. The expectation of continued personal contact sometimes puzzles American executives. Another important difference is how high-context cultures view negotiations as a collaborative effort, whereas the US tends to view them as a competition. The discrepancy in approach is obvious, and it can create problems. There are a series of specific differences that account for most misunderstandings among nations. Some of the most important are their differing views on power distance (how much respect you should show figures of authority, and what is the right way to address them), the concept of time, and the willingness of a country to take risks. Dealing with a high-context culture (like Mexico, China, Italy, and the Arab countries) is always more complicated than dealing with a low-context one (like the United States). In high-context cultures, verbal communication takes second place to body language, the inflection of the voice, and face-to-face interaction. These cultures are less concerned with doing things “by the book”, and are more focused on a relationship that will be beneficial to all parties involved. Therefore, high- context cultures require more time and effort to conduct business.
  • 3. When considering the concept of time, polychronic cultures, consider that time is plentiful andrelative (So, why worry?), while monochronic cultures, like the United States, believe time is a preciouscommodity (Time is money). Polychronic cultures tend to be late for appointments, do many things atthe same time, and work based not on schedule, but on task completion. Mealtimes, including businessmeals, tend to last for hours. When dealing with polychromic cultures, monochronic cultures must usesmart PR, including a full understanding of these differences, and being patient. A third important difference is the uncertainty avoidance index. A culture high in this type ofindex (like Greece and Portugal) is usually highly emotional, more bureaucratic, reluctant to take risks,and unwilling to go out of its comfort zone. It also avoids open conflict in business negotiations. HighUAI cultures find it hard to say “no” to their straightforward, low uncertainty avoidance index partners(like Singapore, Scandinavia, and the US), even though they may not agree with what they hear. So, it isimportant not just to listen to their verbal answer, but to watch their body language as well. The above are only a few of the many cultural differences international executives encounterwhen trying to apply CSR dealing with other cultures. Therefore, global PR represents today one of themost valuable tools to do business abroad. Good international research will give as a result successful global PR strategies that will providecompany employees the necessary tools to navigate a foreign environment successfully and with greaterconfidence. The application of a well designed global PR campaign in the long run can save corporationsvaluable time and money, and the result of these actions is effective corporate social responsibility thatwill benefit all.
  • 4. Monica E. StevensCross-cultural trainer and consultantWith a BA in Professional/ Technical Writing, and MSBA in International Studies, Monica has been a PRdirector, foreign correspondent in the UK, and radio and television guest speaker. Speaks fluent Spanish,French and Italian, is a college professor of Business in Latin America,member of the Oxford RoundTable Conference in England, PR Deputy Coordinator for APROMEX, and the Detroit ImmigrationExaminer.She has lived in Mexico, England, and the US.