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CSR 65.0 – Corporate Social Responsibility in an Aging Society

The world’s population is aging and growing daily. As health services improve and communities develop their economic and social infrastructures, infant mortality rates are declining, the population is becoming healthier, and life expectancy is increasing dramatically. According to the WHO, the number of people aged 60 years or older will increase from 900 million in 2015 to two billion in 2050, rising from 12% to 22% of the total global population (UN, 2015).
The economic system is dominated by a key player – the business corporation, which is the most significant profit-driven entity in the economic system. Yet, it seems that with regard to aging, corporations fail to fully grasp the consequences of the coming demographic change, not only in terms of its core operational perspectives (workplace, marketing, sales, and so on), but also in terms of its ethical ones (corporate social responsibility). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term commonly used to describe the overall social, environmental, and governance efforts undertaken by business entities. It entails various activities such as the engagement of stakeholders, public relations, political lobbying, risk mitigation, community involvement, and financial contributions. One of the features of CSR is the requirement for transparency of non-financial information (usually termed “environmental, social, and corporate governance” [ESG] disclosure). The disclosure of these aspects of businesses has been neglected in traditional financial reporting methods, but is needed in order to make businesses accountable for their social and environmental effects.
This PhD research aims to study the complex interrelationships between two major social issues: the aging of society and corporate conduct via CSR as a managerial approach. The former is a developing social and demographic situation with major ramifications for communities and economies, while the latter links the business sector to its environmental, social, and governance challenges, responsibilities, and expectations. More specifically, this research will focus on questions such as the following: What, if any, responsibilities do corporations have regarding the social issue of aging population? How is this issue being addressed by CSR tools and guidelines? How is this topic being reported in non-financial reports?
The close interdisciplinary examination and analysis of these two realms, aging society and CSR, will advance our understanding of the social construction of each of them separately and both of them synergistically. The interdisciplinary discussion will contribute to the theoretical understanding of this issue by presenting a new theoretical framework, Corporate Gero-Responsibility, which will conceptualize both the social functions fulfilled by corporations and the significance and contribution of their responsibilities in an aging society.
This doctoral thesis is based on a series of focused studies designated for publication in peer-reviewed papers. The thesis is constructed in three stages, from a very general perspective to a very specific one. The first layer consists of an extended theoretical discussion, based on a systematic literature review in which I lay down the theoretical foundations through which I will present the discursive framework for the following, “downstream” studies. The middle layer (the second study) will compare and evaluate current CSR methodologies in relation to their approach and guidance for addressing aging. The last layer (the third study) will examine corporations’ actual performances, managerial approaches, and reporting on the topic of aging. It will be conducted through an in-depth analysis of formal published documents known as sustainability reports or non-financial reports.
The overarching goal of this research is to contribute simultaneously to the evolution of the social responsibilities of business corporations and to corporations’ awareness of and preparedness for the approaching era of aging population.