Do Companies Have A Responsibility To Give Back To The Community? | St. Louis Public Radio

Do Companies Have A Responsibility To Give Back To The Community?

May 22, 2013

It’s not uncommon for companies to have a policy concerning corporate social responsibility.  But, do companies have an obligation to help communities?  If so, is it just certain types of businesses?  Plus, how do you factor in a company’s desire to help and, at the same time, benefit the bottom line?

Host Don Marsh explored these issues with Jim Fisher, Chair of the Marketing Department at the John Cook School of Business and Interim Director of Emerson Ethics Center at Saint Louis University.  He also spoke with leaders of two local companies: Chief Executive Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear and Michael Simon, an Executive Vice-President at Panera Bread, which operates locally as St. Louis Bread Co.

“(Corporate responsibility) is a growing area and companies are becoming increasingly aware of the many different audiences or stakeholders that they need to be responsive to,” said Jim Fisher.  “As organizations that have a lot of power, with that power comes responsibility so they try to be mindful of how their perceived by these groups…and to act appropriately.”

Michael Simon of Panera said the company established Panera Cares community café three years ago.  They expanded that pay-what-you-want model to all of their St. Louis area locations, instituting a shared meal of responsibility, a turkey chili.

“We have been trying to raise awareness about food insecurity in America which is a significant one.  Fifty million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from and given that we are in the food business we wanted to to reach out and leverage our scale and expertise,” said Simon.

Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear said one of the reasons the company gives back to the community is because “one child, one person can make a difference and kids have a way of multiplying it …so when a child does something good for the community and we can inspire that then many people join in and it’s multiplied a hundred times over.”

“We try to have a human interaction in everything and related to our customers.  There are a lot of ways to make people smile,” Clark said.

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