The social environment is one of the most difficult tasks to monitor because changes in values and attitudes, and lifestyles are not easily measured in reassuringly quantifiable ways.
The social environment comprises the structure and dynamics of individuals and groups and the issues with which they are concerned. Business firms operate in various settings of the social environment, which have social implications. The executive’s first responsibility is to make a profit so the organization can survive.
Business firms cannot continue without profits to provide workers or goods and services to meet society’s needs. In a free enterprise society, the stockholders are the driving force who risk their capital to start businesses.
Since they risk their money, they always look for profits, which is the only rightful reward. It is, therefore, the responsibility of businesses to ensure reasonable profit to the stockholders. In the contemporary world, profits are considered necessary but are not the only objective of the businesses.
Taking care of the employees is another responsibility of executives. Companies should provide workers with fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to union representation. Businesses are expected to offer equal hiring, pay, and promotions to women and other minority groups.
The third area of social responsibility for business executives concerns the physical environment surrounding company offices and installations.
Society no longer tolerates pollution of its air and water resources, and various laws have been enacted to curb the discharge of harmful industrial wastes. Firms that fail to clean up their installations are subject to fines and unfavorable publicity, affecting sales adversely.
The public has become quite sensitive to pollution problems, and managers are being asked to install expensive control procedures even at the risk of higher prices and lower profits. The public raises questions about marketers’ activities when the consequences of those activities are inconsistent with the goals of individuals or society in general.
Therefore, marketers study the social environment carefully and closely and respond accordingly to ensure their long-term survival.
Social Criticisms of Marketing
Even when marketers do a good job of satisfying society, letters of praise, or positive evaluation rarely follow. Society expects marketers to provide a high standard of living and to protect the general quality of life.
Contemporary marketing practices are subject to various social criticisms, as evidenced by the growing concern for such areas as marketing’s impact on the environment, marketing impact on nonrenewable resources, and marketing’s obligation to the children, the poor, the elderly, and different unprivileged groups.
The societal marketing concept was defined in unit one as a management orientation that holds that the key task of organizing is to determine the needs and wants of target markets and to adapt the organization to delivering the desired satisfaction more effectively and efficiently than its competitors in a way that preserves or enhances the consumers’ and society’s well-being and making profit through upholding the social interest.
The societal marketing concept is not still a widely practiced one. Nevertheless, this concept, however, is followed by many marketers. ”The substantial increase in interest in business’s social impact is an outgrowth of heightened public concern over and sensitivity to many aspects of society.
But, ‘interest in the social performance of the business is not new. What is new is the greater number of individuals, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations desiring social information, the parallel desire for such information by corporate management, the variety of subjects in which they are interested, and the increasing ability of all to use social information effectively”.
Whether willing or unwillingly, marketers create certain impacts on society and the environment through their production and market products and services, as people use or consume products and services, they also generate certain impacts on society and the environment.
Consequently, the business has an enormous influence on society’s economic well-being and its prevailing quality of life. In short, every business action, if carefully studied, will be found to have both economic and social consequences, which marketers should take into active consideration in formulating their policies.
Environmentalism and Conservation
Protecting the physical environment and conserving renewable resources should be considered by marketers for them to take a societal perspective.
Land, air, water pollution control, energy conservation, waste recycling, and waste disposal have become formidable forces in the marketplace in both developed and developing countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam.
While consumers demand immediate gratification of their needs and desires, they also want to retain a quality environment with sufficient essential materials for the future. Governments in developed countries have enacted many laws to protect and conserve the environment.
The government in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam may view environmental protection issues from two perspectives.
First, the government may examine existing environmental protection programs regarding their adequacy and efficiency in providing a healthy environment.
The government may focus primarily on formulating individual pollution control laws. Other environmental pollution problems that should attract government attention include groundwater contamination, river and ocean dumping, importation of hazardous substances, and effects of different pesticides and chemical fertilizers used in agricultural land.
Second, the government may examine environmental protection programs regarding their implications for other national problems such as energy development, economic growth, and social development.
Such government activities and special interest groups form an important part of its environment to achieve its profit-making goals.
No major institution can expect to find itself fully acceptable to society if it arbitrarily pursues its major objective without regard for the consequences of its actions to the environment and the society. The business may impose its will for a time, but its survival requires that it accommodate its activities with the society.
Government policy regarding energy conservation and pollution control has had a significant effect on the market environment. The government may direct its effort toward enacting nation-wide mandatory deposits on different containers.
The government may enact laws requiring the deposit of containers and prohibiting non-reusable containers from reducing litter and gaining better utilization of existing resources. Such changes in the legal environment definitely will affect businesses.
Consumer Problems of Special Interest Groups
A significant area of the social criticism directed at marketing focuses on three relatively unprotected groups. They are the children, the poor, and the elderly. The term ‘unprotected’ should be used in a relative sense.
One of the dominant characteristics of the society in countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam; is that economic and political power beget ‘protection’ and ‘advantage.’ In these two respects, the poor, the young children, and the elderly are relatively disadvantaged.
The common factor underlying these groups’ consumer needs is that each requires special treatment from a marketing system not designed in these countries.
Consumer Problems of Children
In India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other developing countries, it is alleged, among others, that children are deliberately being sold the less nutritious products. They are being programmed to demand candy and chocolate very often and demand sugar and sweeteners in almost every food.
It is also alleged that children are not sufficiently protected from inherently dangerous products such as medicines, insecticides, and certain toys. Advertising in television directed at children has come under harsh criticism from many corners.
Marketers are charged with the allegation that children very often have a difficult time distinguishing fact from fantasy. They have been accused of exploiting such innocence to sell their products and services and make a substantial profit.
Consumer Problems of the Poor
Critics also express their concern for the poor. They often charge that merchants use unethical practices in poverty areas, such as selling imitated products, using high-pressure selling techniques, selling rejected products, etc. Others argue that marketers charge poor people more for products and services than do more affluent consumers.
Consumer Problems of the Elderly
Marketers are also criticized for their treatment of older adults. Older people share many problems of the poor. For many of these consumers, lack of physical mobility limits their choice of stores and, in some cases, their total opportunity to shop.
We know that older people need specific types of food items. Marketers are criticized when such foods are unavailable or when food labels do not provide adequate ingredients.
It has been stated by a consultant of a foundation that “many of the aged have some chronic disease or infirmity that makes them easy targets for a wide range of products sold on the promise of relief or cure from various ailments.
And this condition is complicated further by low income, relative immobility, and the often desperate need for help”. With the increase of elderly consumers, marketers will be pressured to respond to such charges to meet older people’s needs adequately.