Vienna Alumni Symposium: ‘Corporate Social Responsibility: Morality or Necessity?’

| November 19, 2012
Webster University Vienna Alumni Symposium

Panelists included representatives from Pfizer, Microsoft, Borealis, the U.S. Embassy and more.

Corporate Social Responsibility has been a hot topic in business over the last few years, so it made a perfect point of discussion when Webster University Vienna welcomed six guest speakers and 150 guests to the beautiful Palais Eschenbach for the 5th Annual Webster Vienna Alumni Symposium.

Many refer to the topic simply as “CSR” with the assumption that everyone knows what this means. The question on this night was, does anyone truly know what we are talking about when we refer to Corporate Social Responsibility?

Eric Frey, managing editor of Der Standard and International Relations professor at Webster Vienna, moderated the discussion and sought to uncover what CSR means to companies and how they incorporate this concept into their day to day operations.

Webster University Vienna Alumni Symposium

The 5th Annual Webster Vienna Alumni Symposium covered corporate social responsibility from a variety of corporate and nonprofit perspectives.

Lee A. Brudvig, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, began the night with a keynote address discussing the evolution of this concept through public/private partnerships in the developing world.

He helped present a framework for understanding the evening’s discussion.

Each speaker presented their understanding of the term, using their unique personal experiences in different business sectors to explore the topic from their perspectives.

Dorothea Wiplinger, corporate social responsibility manager, Strategy & Group Development, Borealis AG; Claudia Handl, director of Public Affairs, Pfizer Corporation Austria; and Thomas Lutz, lead PR & corporate affairs, Microsoft Austria; discussed their experiences within large multinational corporations and how this concept shapes business decisions and corporate culture.

Charitable Foundations and Corporate Partnerships

Doraja Eberle, member of the board, ERSTE Foundation, discussed CSR from the point of view of a charitable foundation keen on developing partnerships with companies engaging in social work.

Elisabeth Menasse-Wiesbauer, director, ZOOM Children’s Museum, presented the position of an organization that relies heavily on corporate sponsorships to survive. Andreas Schneider, managing director, Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award, discussed what his organization looks for when awarding companies for successful CSR practices.

The many different perspective and attitudes presented provided for a stimulating and lively discussion. It seemed that many different business practices could be labeled as CSR, from producing products that are more environmentally friendly, to providing a comfortable and flexible work environment for employees.

Good Business is Good Business

To many these practices seemed self-evident, and the recurring question of the night was: What differentiates CSR from simply good business?

In the end, all panelists agreed that CSR activities — that is, taking the social impact of your actions into consideration when shaping your business practices and trying to positively affect communities — should become the standard in all sectors, rendering the discussion of CSR completely unnecessary. As Andreas Schneider put it: “CSR should not be an accessory that is unpacked once or twice a year, but rather something to be found in everyone’s DNA ready to be lived 365 days a year.”

The panel discussion was followed by a question and answer session and a cocktail hour featuring a Japanese buffet provided by Akakiko.

Category: Advancement, International & U.S. Campuses

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