"It is not enough to comply with the law, the decisions we make in companies have a major impact on employees, customers and society. To make fairer decisions, we need to respect ethical rules," asserted CaixaBank Chairman and IESE Prof. Jordi Gual.
Gual defended ethics and social responsibility in business management during a session to mark the 10th anniversary of La Caixa Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance.
The Chair was established in 2006 as one of the first in Spain. It reflects La Caixa and IESE’s commitment to spreading awareness of corporate social responsibility both from an academic perspective, and in terms of application to business management and management training.
Gual compared the model of shareholder capitalism to that of stakeholder capitalism. In the latter, businesses are like social institutions and are based on relationships of trust and commitment: "The various stakeholders are mutually committed to achieving goals that go beyond the maximization of corporate profit."
The CaixaBank president stressed the need for companies to invest in improving the conditions of their customers, shareholders, employees and society in general.
As a result of this "investment," he said, "employees and managers are more involved, relationships with customers and shareholders are longer-lasting, and collaboration with society and its institutions is also enhanced."
"Understanding the company as a social institution reinforces its long-term sustainability and is a source of permanent competitive advantage," he asserts.
According to Gual, trust is an important asset among executives, shareholders and customers for generating positive synergies in the company: "It is an intangible asset that requires a great and continuous effort, but can erode very easily."
Antonio Argandoña added that "companies need their employees, customers, shareholders and suppliers to trust them. And to achieve this they must behave in a trustworthy way."
For this he stressed the importance of a company demonstrating their values and admitted that "it is not easy to maintain employee or customer trust, but corporate social responsibility can help achieve this."
Do not confuse corporate social responsibility with philanthropy, said Argandoña; "Corporate social responsibility begins with the normal running of the company, and is about employees, customers, and the environment. The company must demonstrate integrity in its own activity."
Gual agrees that "the function of a company is not only profit, it must also take care of the public to which it speaks."
Argandoña, who thanked the bank for its support over the past decade, announced that La Caixa Chair had been renamed CaixaBank Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Dean Franz Heukamp commended the pioneering nature of La Caixa’s commitment in the early years of corporate social responsibility development, and praised the international prestige achieved by the fruit of Prof. Argandoña’s work.
"The years of economic crisis,” said Heukamp, “have shown us the need for ethics and corporate social responsibility. Knowledge generation, dissemination and teaching in these areas are central aspects of IESE’s mission and La Caixa’s support through this chair allows us to develop and expand our reach. "
Over the past 10 years La Caixa Chair has published 32 articles in top tier specialist journals, 53 chapters in scientific books and 32 papers. More than 50 conferences, symposia and seminars have been held and scientific activity has been rolled out across 17 countries around the world.
The Chair has opened several lines of research in areas such as the ethics of the financial system, social enterprises, the current challenges facing social responsibility and new technologies, transparency, innovation and corporate governance.