The general perception of a corporate organisation is that it is just there to make money, without giving due consideration to the consumers.
This view is highlighted in an article ‘Consumer goods firm raking in profits’, by Dilawar Hussain in Dawn’s Economic and Business issue, dated September 10. In the article, Hussain has listed ten leading MNCs in Pakistan whose profits after taxes, is in billions of rupees.
Therefore, the above perception has to be changed and a balanced relationship between good corporate citizenship and the consumers has to be established and the management’s commitment to ethics, its shareholders and the consumers is clearly defined.
They expect manufacturers to supply reliable, quality and safe products, whereas stockholders demand that corporate operations are managed efficiently and that their investments are rewarded by dividends or improved market value.
No doubt, a corporation’s primary obligation is to the company and to make profit for its shareholders. However, in today’s complex business environment, Corporate Social Responsibility has become a growing need for prudent corporations. They have realized that to promote brand loyalty, their role should not be only to make profits, but also to be recognised as socially responsible enterprises.
Leading corporations in developed countries have realized that consumers can make or break a brand. As such, it is not just how much profit the company earns for its share holders, but also how they earn their profits.           
CSR is basically an obligation, working for the benefit of social good, as well for profits and is beyond the letter of law. It is a long-term investment, as it differentiates a corporation from the others and creates customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
It is towards a spirit of trust, respect for the rules of trade, environment, consumer’s interest, promote sustainable development programs and to avoid illicit operations like hoarding, misleading advertisements, bribery, tax evasion, etc.
A socially responsible corporation provides goods and services in line with society’s values and avoids unethical business practices. It respects the laws that protect the rights of consumers and employees, as well as the environment.
From the consumer’s point of view, socially responsible corporations should be concerned about customer rights and that the companies’ products do not cause illness, disease or death nor destroy or damage the environment.
A good corporation offers superior value to customers at affordable prices and by acknowledging social responsibilities and investing in the consumers to whom they sell their products and make profits.
Consumers enjoy the benefits of this commitment directly, because a good Corporation treats them fairly and strives to satisfy their changing needs. They also enjoy the fruits of corporate citizenship indirectly, as the organizations undertake to respect laws and regulations, adopt a conduct that is morally right and help their community.
These Corporations regularly fund civic oriented activities and support education, health, environment, and economic development programs. Such actions help to forge tight bonds with consumers, employees, suppliers and community leaders. However, CSR is not just how much money a corporation gives to charity or communities for its social development programs, but as to how it makes its money and earns profits.
Effective corporate citizenship is incorporated into the daily interactions between the company and all its stakeholders. It is the result of trusting relationships and long-lasting interactions, but this cannot be achieved without top management support.
Corporations must have a sense of responsibility towards the society from which they earn their profits. Executives of these corporations must be men of ethics, with strong social commitments, who transform their ideas and vision of corporate ethics into corporate responsibility.
An enlightened corporation sets its own code of ethics and respects and acknowledges its responsibilities, which are practiced by its workers, managers and senior executives. It sets the example of being good citizens and promoting good citizenship.
A prosperous society means a better environment for doing business. By addressing social problems, a corporation builds bridges and confidence between business and society and creates corporate and brand loyalty, resulting in increased sales
In developed countries, where there are numerous brands and products to choose from, there is fierce competition and companies realize the strength of the consumers. As such they try and provide a quality product at a fair price to them.
Unfortunately in developing countries like Pakistan, where there are just a handful of companies and no Consumer Protection Laws or effective price control, this emphasis on quality and pricing is not there and many companies compromise on these issues.
Rahat Kaunain Hassan, Chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan, has clearly stated that : “While enforcement of competition law is indeed for the public good and protecting consumers from anticompetitive practices, controlling or regulating prices does not fall within the CCP’s purview”.
However, at a recent function in Lahore, CCP Chairperson has stated that it will share its marketing guidelines with all the stakeholders, including PTA and Cellular companies, to avoid Deceptive Marketing.
As such, except for a few, there is a general lack of Corporate Citizenship in Pakistan and CSR seems to focus on how much donation an organization contributes to health, environment and education programs, but overlooks its obligations and commitments to the consumers, from whom they earn their profits.
Companies must realize that society gives birth to corporate businesses and if corporations do not serve society, then there will be a gradual breakdown of trust and respect for corporations and we will witness an “anti corporate” movement. 
Socially Responsible Corporations must step forward, be leaders, set an example and voluntarily observe the principles of Business Ethics. It is the moral obligation of corporations, who believe in Good Manufacturing Practice, to follow the rules and guidelines of GMP, observe a code of conduct in manufacturing and marketing, ensure truth in advertising, avoid misleading and deceptive advertisements and provide quality products at a fair price to the consumers.
And in their own interest, they must also support consumer organizations in promoting awareness campaigns against counterfeit and look alike products, in the electronic and print media, in order to protect the consumers from such products. If they do not set an example, then we will end up with a “free for all” situation and consumers will lose their confidence in ‘Branded Products’.
 (trust@helplinetrust.org)