Corporate Social Responsibility
Read this section, paying particular attention to the sections on communities, financial contributions, volunteerism, and supporting local causes to learn more about the positive impact of businesses.
The purpose of any business is to satisfy customers, who reward businesses by buying their products. Sellers are also responsible – both ethically and legally – for treating customers fairly. The rights of consumers were first articulated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 when he submitted to Congress a presidential message devoted to consumer issues. Kennedy identified four consumer rights:
- The right to safe products. A company should sell no product that it suspects of being unsafe for buyers. Thus, producers have an obligation to safety-test products before releasing them for public consumption. The automobile industry, for example, conducts extensive safety testing before introducing new models (though recalls remain common).
- The right to be informed about a product. Sellers should furnish consumers with the product information that they need to make an informed purchase decision. That's why pillows have labels identifying the materials used to make them, for instance.
- The right to choose what to buy. Consumers have a right to decide which products to purchase, and sellers should let them know what their options are. Pharmacists, for example, should tell patients when a prescription can be filled with a cheaper brand-name or generic drug. Telephone companies should explain alternative calling plans.
- The right to be heard. Companies must tell customers how to contact them with complaints or concerns. They should also listen and respond.
Companies share the responsibility for the legal and ethical treatment of consumers with several government agencies: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which enforces consumer-protection laws; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the labeling of food products; and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which enforces laws protecting consumers from the risk of product-related injury.