Flying Carpets from East to West : An Examination on Corporate Social Responsibility within the Indian Carpet Industry
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AbstractCorporate social responsibility is a concept widely discussed by businesses and has come to describe the relationship between business and society. For some it means the idea o legal responsibility, an ethical behaviour and some equate it with charitable contribution. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Hopkins, 2007: 25) defines CSR as follows: "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large." The relationship is increasingly striving to counteract a variety of problems that are associated with the contemporary globalization, such as violation of human and labour rights along with environmental challenges and is well-mentioned both by academics and businessmen. Within the Indian carpet industry, child labour has become a hot topic due to major scandals on the issues in the 1990s. Though, the meaning of corporate social responsibility is less common. The purpose of this study is to examine the Indian carpet industry’s awareness and use of the international agenda of corporate social responsibility, hence how the carpet export houses approach the responsibility. Also, the purpose is to examine how the carpet weavers are affected by the policies and actions of the export houses. A field study with an ethnographical approach has been conducted through the use of interviews and observations in the district of Bhadohi, state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The interviewees consisted of workers working with the finishing processes of carpets at two export houses’ factories as well as carpet weavers at the looms in the villages. The findings from the interviews were analyzed through the use of parts of the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and with this approach the weavers’ access to assets is analyzed in relation to the export houses’ applying of the international agenda of CSR, more precise in this study, the UN Global Compact’s principles of CSR. The main findings from this study show that the CSR principles of the UN Global Compact were followed to different extents by the export houses since they are prioritizing some principles before others. The distribution of responsibilities differs depending on the management of the export house, mainly because of how the demands from the buyers and consumers look like. Also, the prioritizing of the export houses has become to affect the weavers’ socio-economic situation and for some the access to assets has increased. Furthermore, the study reveal that corporate social responsibility to a large extent is directed and influenced by the buyers’ and consumers’ (mainly stationed abroad in Western countries) demand. Thereby, through the complex system of sub-contracting, carpet weavers are affected differently since CSR is interpreted and used in various ways that are considered as most “suitable” to the export house.