Taking this class and examining the moves that companies have made toward being socially responsible has made me wonder whether all companies or industries can achieve CSR. Are there some whose products inherently pit them against social responsibility?

The first industry that jumps to mind is the tobacco industry. My curiosity led me to check out one of the largest tobacco companies website, and interestingly an entire section is devoted to the company’s CSR initiatives. This company’s CSR ranges from reducing pollution and waste in product manufacturing to eliminating child labor in vendor countries. For example, this company helped establish an organization to “[end] the inappropriate use of child labor in tobacco growing and [provide] children with an upbringing that gives them the best chance to succeed in all aspects of life.” While these efforts are commendable, the fact remains that tobacco products can kill. So can a tobacco company ever be socially responsible?

This class has also showed me that CSR is not charity. It is about aligning the company’s business model and profitability goals with initiatives that are beneficial to both the company and its stakeholders. The fact is that there will probably always be a market for tobacco products despite the negative health effects of these products. However, by making other socially responsible changes, this industry giant is wielding its influence to show that CSR is important in all industries and can be implemented in different ways. By engaging in CSR efforts, the company is communicating that making a “socially irresponsible” product is not an excuse to be socially irresponsible in all aspects of production; this message in and of itself is commendable as socially responsible. At the end of the day, my opinions of tobacco aside, I have to give it up to this company for at least making a big difference where it can because all these changes help our environment and society in the long run.

—Anjali.J