This essay is a critical analysis of the behaviors that Company Q has demonstrated with regard to social responsibility. In essence, Company Q’s behaviors, while reasonable reactions to maintain financial viability and avoid contribution to employee malfeasance, actually demonstrate a profound solicitude that results in a negative public image that will end up costing it more in the long term. I will offer solutions that will provide a cost savings while keeping Company Q from making further embarrassing errors.
A Critical Analysis of Company Q’s Social Responsibility
Unfortunately, Company Q has not made wise decisions as it relates to social responsibility. There are reports that the company 1) chose to close much-needed grocery stores in economically depressed (read: minority-occupied) parts of town, 2.) chose to start offering health-conscious food items only after it could locate the highest-margin products it could find; and 3) ashamedly refused to provide day-old food to the local food bank under the auspices that it was concerned that its employees would steal the food instead of donating it. The goal of this analysis is not only to highlight this absurd behavior and reasoning but also to offer solutions that are conducive to meeting social-responsibility concerns and maintaining financial viability. With any hope, Company Q will heed the counsel and institute immediate changes.
The news recently reported the shuttering of two of Company Q’s grocery stores in Neighborhood A and Neighborhood B. Although the company gave no public statement about the nature of these closings, public financial disclosures indicate the rationale: The stores were not profitable. Of course, in a free-market economy, companies have the option to close unprofitable stores. But in addition to being a free market, we are also an economy that operates on high social principles—or, at the very least, we should be. Company Q apparently missed this memorandum when it was sent 30 years ago. With these stores removed from both neighborhoods, where are the residents of those neighborhoods supposed to shop? And with the removal of the stores, what impetus do the few other grocers have to keep prices reasonable for people of that socio-economic level?
I recognize that a possible rebuttal to any of the aforementioned questions is, “If the residents are not shopping there and putting money into the store, why would we be expected to stay open?” I would offer that such a rebuttal is wrongheaded. Perhaps a better question may be, “What are we doing to cause residents to shop elsewhere or to not spend more money with us?” Does Company Q offer the food choices these residents want? Is the layout of your stores conducive to these residents? Are the prices too high? Do the staff you employ in these stores look like the residents who shop there? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, we will have unlocked one of many possible reasons why the store is unprofitable. It is then Company Q’s responsibility to address these issues instead of packing up shop and moving to the more affluent areas of town, where they are not concerned that a jar of pickles may cost $40.
With a weight epidemic ravaging the country, Company Q made its decision to offer health-conscious food fare only after it could find the foods that provided the highest margin of profit for it. That is probably why there is a dearth of health-food options in its store, and probably why the prices are nearly twice those of its competitors. This message translates to the community as: “If Company X can profit obscenely from offering health-food options to its consumers, it will then be concerned with offering healthy options. Otherwise, let the American obesity epidemic rage on unfettered—not our problem!”
The above message is a clear problem, and it does not have to be. It is possible for Company Q to offer plenty of health-food options while still making a profit, though the profit may not be as obscene as the one it is currently making. Company Q can engage in more impactful negotiations with its suppliers or can shop the market for health-food competitors who would be willing to supply its sizable consumer base with its food. In our previous reference to store closings, Company Q could also offer more health-food options in more of its stores as opposed to select ones. Or Company Q could offer the same food products but initially make less of a profit on it by offering discounts on it initially as a sort of enticement to customers to become interested and promote the food to their network of friends and family. This possibility could theoretically create increased demand for the healthy food and allow more profitability for the company in the long run. Company profitability and meeting social-responsibility obligations as it relates to our country’s obesity epidemic need not be at variance.
A local food bank—one that serves the indigent—requested the donation of day-old food from Company Q, but Company Q responded that it was concerned that it would lose revenue because it was concerned that its employees would purloin the food instead of donating it.
This response is insulting to its own employees and to the food bank. If Company Q is concerned that its employees are miscreants, the company’s bigger concern should be the integrity of its employee-verification process. There are many solutions available: have the food-bank employees collect the food themselves, designate a specific employee to handle food donations, make a tax-deductible donation in the amount of the destroyed food instead. Almost any response is better than what Company Q provided.
There is no question that every company has a right to pursue profits, and I recognize that Company Q is ultimately attempting to do just that. However, it is imperative that Company Q realize that it has a responsibility to contribute to society something other than products and services. Consumers are interested in doing business with forward-thinking companies who recognize their responsibility in propelling the “soul” of our society forward. With the counsel provided, Company Q can bring itself in line with many other companies in being truly customer centric.