Bradford College had the privilege of hosting the 13th International Conference on CSR during the period of June 30 to July 2 2014. Following the registration and welcoming of conference participants, the conference was opened by Ronan O’Beirne, Director of Learning Development and Research.
Keynote speakers from Yorkshire Water and BAM Construction spoke at length about social responsibility and how precisely it manifests itself in their corporate strategy and day to day operations and activities. Yorkshire Water spokesman, Dafydd Williams, described the many efforts and initiatives embarked upon by his organisation. These included environmental performance, looking after and improving well over 250 miles of Yorkshire’s river life, carbon management, climate management, biodiversity, and securing water resources amongst others.
Eleanor Evans, Community Engagement Manager, introduced the company and explained BAM’s community engagement strategy, as part of the organisation’s overall corporate social responsibility programme. She referred to the Bradford College building project and how that it has ‘impacted on the community engagement strategy and added value regarding young people and the local community.’ This has ranged from curriculum support, careers’ information, assisting apprentices to community events and BAM’s charity partnerships and volunteering programme. Her colleague, Jonathan Conway, Senior Site Manager, spoke specifically on the new College building and how sustainability in many shapes and forms had been a major part of the overall construction programme. When asked what drove the company in its pursuit of social responsibility, he said: “Increasingly the driver was the customer.” This was a prime example of how society and individuals had come to embrace CSR and Bradford College is no exception, considering its heritage and history as a community college.
Conference presentations soon commenced on topics and themes varying from CSR in Italy, to environmental SR in Turkey, CSR in Bali-Indonesia, Polish women on corporate boards, CSR in Portuguese banking, emerging market CSR, Romanian take on CSR and corporate governance in Nigeria, SRI in Brazil, as well as CSR at Bradford College to film induced tourism and sustainability, to name a few. The titles referred to above highlights the global nature as well as the astonishing diversity of subjects presented.
The first batch of parallel sessions contained an input from a group of Italian academics on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Value Creation: A Study on CSR Manager Network Italia’ which focused specifically during the period of economic downturn. Dr Khosro S Jahdi, Senior lecturer in Marketing at Bradford College, said: “Professors Fiorani, Meneguzzo and Mititelu made a clear impression on the audience. It is always doubly educational when a perspective from other countries is examined and reported to the audience.” Prof Ozturk’s paper on ‘Environmental Social Responsibility in Turkey’ opened yet another door to another nation’s perspective on an ever growing off-shoot of CSR, i.e. environmentalism. The third session given by Prof Hong used a rather unusual sounding company and analysed its CSR in China. The title of the paper was ‘Towards the new commercial mode integrating with CSR- from the case analysis of Alibaba.’ The succinct analysis and study of CSR within the organisation was found stimulating by the audience and added further weight to the acceptance of CSR as a global phenomenon. The first US based presentation at the conference was prepared by Profs Mary Beth Pinto and Phylis Mansfield and focused on ‘Content Analysis of Retailers’ Approach to Sustainability: Do they walk the talk?’ “Prof Mansfield who presented the paper showed immense knowledge of the area of investigation and her response to numerous questions added more value to the session,” said Dr Khosro S Jahdi. Prof Mahuni’s speech concentrated on how CSR manifests itself in the hotel industry of Bali-Indonesia, containing ‘multilevel analysis of principles, processes and outcomes.’ As with the previous presentation, rhetoric was separated from actual action; implementation rather than mere formulation of what might appear on paper grandiose CSR strategies that may never see the light of day.
Further presentation included Prof Vasanath’s impassioned speech on ‘The Vanishing Shores of India’, examining in great detail the national and international coalition on CSR sustainability and governance. This was another detailed investigation into what occurs in yet another country with respect to CSR. A long standing and ever present delegate (who also co-edits the Social Responsibility Journal), Prof Rendtorff, from Denmark, talked in some length about ‘Conceptual framework for CSR and sustainability’ using a variety of reflections on the topic. By this time the references to sustainability were beginning to be noted by the audience. Prof Greenland, based in New Zealand, elaborated on the theme of CSR in emerging markets with a view to ‘identifying the fundamentals of living standards and quality of life.’ Human and labour relations were under the spotlight here, since a number of so-called developing nations might mistakenly view CSR as a mere luxury and not a vital necessity. With the astronomic expansion of purchasing on-line, the paper by Prof Wilson on ‘Modelling On-line Customers -Response to e-Retailers’ Cause Related Advertising’, proved a much popular topic of discussion and debate. Dr Grigore, Profs Theofilou and Watson’s investigation into ‘Ethical Stakeholder Engagement: Exploring the relationship between Corporations and NGOs’, studied the sometimes difficult relationship between companies and NGO’s (where the latter’s endorsement of the former is viewed as a sign of approval and acceptance by a pressure group.) This was a very well researched paper and created a great deal of interest and discussion.
Later into the event, the current Chief Executive, Michele Sutton, the Principal, Kath Oldale and the future Group Chief Executive, Andy Welsh, welcomed the guests and spoke to them individually, in the elegant surroundings of the Henry Mitchell Hall. The presence of the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress added further elegance to the occasion and the ambiance.
The second day’s presentations began by yet another regular delegate of the Social Responsibility conferences, Dr Miriam Green whose topic ‘After Feyerabend’s Against Method: the social construction of management and management accounting scholarship in the academy’ was extremely well received and was found to be of excellent academic quality. Prof Babalola, presented his paper on ‘Corporate Governance, Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in a Developing Financial System in Nigeria’. The combination of and the research into corporate governance, business ethics and CSR, although viewed by some academics as very demanding, was handled well by Prof Babalola whose response to the questions from the audience showed his grasp of the topic. Brazilian SRI Funds was examined by Prof Maimon with regards to its realistic assessment, indicating the level and depth of the presenter’s comprehension of the theme. The final speech before the morning break was delivered by Dr Stancu who spoke on the theme of ‘Faulty translation: CSR as public relations amongst Romania’s major organisations’, providing a valuable insight into how an eastern European country’s firms view CSR.
A number of colleagues from the Business School and Art and Design as well as the HE Registry attended the event, and some presented diverse and thought provoking papers. Dr Simeon Scott’s talk on ‘The Market’ examined in great detail the social responsibilities of economics researchers as well as teachers of the subject in what he perceived was an overwhelmingly capitalist society. A heated debate ensued and challenging questions were asked and dealt with. Isma Batool from the HE Registry spoke about corporate social responsibility using a case study constructed on Bradford College. As one who is extremely interested in the subject, Isma managed to deliver a very detailed and analytical speech on the chosen topic. Questions about the theme were raised and capably tackled. Dr Maurice Manktelow spoke professionally about ‘enhancing engagement in social responsibility’ applying reflections on the contributory role of religion and the academy. This is an area of interest and expertise for Maurice and his presentation made an impact on the audience judging by the questions posed afterwards. Dr Khosro S Jahdi said: “I presented a paper on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and its relationship with Corporate Governance (CG). My introduction stated that we all seem to have some notion of CSR, however, not everyone is quite familiar with CG.” Dr Khosro’s paper was mainly secondary research based and after the presentation a number of questions were raised. The absence of CG during the financial crisis of the 2007/8 in many institutions was partly blamed for the ensuing economic downturn affecting most of the developed nations. Marta Soligo’s introduction to the unusual topic of ‘Film Imaginaries for Tourism: An Innovative Promotional and Sustainable Approach’ attracted a great deal of attention and interest considering the theme under discussion. The next presentation focussed on the oil and gas industry’s CSR initiatives seen from the eyes of employees. As well as the secondary research, the primary source of information was based on a single Malaysian firm. The results as well as their interpretation by Drs SJ Benjamin, M Murali and JR Raj proved most comprehensive and informative.
Colombian companies were the main subject for investigation in the paper offered by Lucely Vargas and Lina Gomez with a view to examining their CSR performance. Mauritian hotel sector’s mandatory CSR framework was discussed in great detail by Prof Ragodoo who created a great deal of discussion especially when some delegates attempted to make comparisons with their own country’s similar efforts. Dr Elif Boclan discussed social responsibility reporting with a particular attention to labour practices, in Turkey. Again some comparisons were made with other nations’ labour practices and the debate continued for some time afterwards. Prof Babalola’ s second presentation explained the Nigerian insurance industry’s corporate governance and sustainability, succinctly conveying first hand academic interpretation of the topic. The final session was offered by Prof Wang whose speech on ‘System Feature of Corporate Environmental Responsibility’ was well received and proved to be thought provoking and most informative.
On the evening of the second day, Bradford City Hall’s Banqueting Suite provided yet another historic and elegant location for the gala dinner. The delegates were delighted and impressed by the building, the architecture and the artefacts within. “A most enjoyable evening was had by all, judging by the comments afterwards,” said Dr Khosro S Jahdi.
The final day witnessed an impressive presentation by Prof Tony Tinker from New York on CSR and General Motors; and on working conditions in clothing manufacturing industries in Brazil and Portugal by Prof Maria Soledad. The finishing touches to the International Conference were offered by Prof Chris Cowton, Dean of Business School at Huddersfield University, who delivered a speech on the grounding of an understanding of CSR in what a company actually does as well as how it does it, using banks in the UK as an important and striking example. The presentations generated a large number of questions which were professionally and succinctly answered by Prof Cowton and other presenters. Ronan O’Beirne closed the conference by thanking all of the participants, speakers and organisers for their tremendous efforts and contribution.
“Looking back, the conference achieved what it always has had during the past events, namely attracting academics from around the globe, ranging from the US, Brazil to Poland, Italy and Romania, Turkey and Mauritius. The common thread has been social responsibility, although every year one is pleasantly surprised to listen to yet another speech about another branch or off-shoot of CSR,” said Dr Khosro S Jahdi.
The annual exchange of knowledge, concepts, the resultant cross-fertilisation, the networking (that leads increasingly to collaborative research, publications etc.) and the academic debate that is invariably part and parcel of the event can certainly ensure that CSR and the related research maintains momentum and grows in importance. Bradford College, via hosting this international conference played a major part in being part of this global movement to keep this fire burning. The level of interest, discussion and debate that the event generated amongst colleagues at the Business School in particular, was most certainly testament to the conferences success and academic achievement. Dr Khosro S Jahdi said: “I have attended most of the International Conferences on Social Responsibility and can emphatically state that in comparison the conference was most certainly a success.”