Corporate Social Responsibility practices in Mexico vary from “philanthropic efforts to standards-based reporting with corporate governance practices for stronger transparency and accountability to both shareholders and the wider community.” Logsdon, Thomas and Van Buren (2006) analyze the social and political history of CSR in Mexico by questioning three myths about Mexico’s CSR that influence outsiders’ perception: CSR in Mexico is a new concept, CSR was brought in Mexico by US firms and Mexican companies show CSR patterns of American enterprises.
The authors observe that CSR activities have a long history in Mexico and the US firms were not the ones to introduce the CSR concept into the country and that CSR has its own origins and practices within Mexican companies. Nevertheless, Mexican firms have been influenced by the global CSR discussions. Many of them begin to adopt international CSR policies such as “ISO 14000 environmental certification and corporate social reporting” (Paul, Zalka, Cobas, Ceron, & Frit, 2006).
At the same time, the huge social and environmental problems that Mexico encounters determined large Mexican firms to become more socially responsible (Logsdon, Thomas, & Van Buren III, 2006). Multinational companies in Mexico also face public pressure to transform themselves in good corporate citizens (Acutt, Medina-Ross, O’Riordan 2004; Paul et al. 2006). According to Casanova (2010) Mexico has had a certain philanthropic view on social responsibility.
The milestone for the institutionalization of CSR in Mexico was the initiative of an important Mexican business leader, Manuel Arango, who created, in 1988, “The Mexican Centre of Philanthropy” (“Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía” – Cemefi). Cemefi represents 59 companies, 92 foundations and 45 business leaders. The idea behind Cemefi was to stimulate companies to concentrate also on issues such as environment, not just philanthropy.
After ten years of existance Cemefi’s activities include also aiding companies to carry out CSR policies. Engaging in social actions is important in Mexico and it is expressly honored by the government with awards for achievements in the field. Cemefi is the organization responsible for the awarding. Large national and international companies offer substantial sums to charity. In Mexico, small and middle-sized companies are hardly involved in any CSR action.
The corporate actions focus mainly on reducing poverty, improving healthcare and education, environmental protection and philanthropy. The topic of CSR is covered regularly by the press. The Mexican magazine “ganar ganar” is focused exclusively on these issues.
In a highly paternalistic system (70 years under the one-party ruling that managed all social interests), the state-owned companies, among them Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), are expected to take care of the needs of employees and their families, and of the communities’ welfare (CSR WelWeit, German Business-Global Citizen, 2011). This had an impact on the society’s expectations from companies. Over the years, Corporate Social Responsibility in Mexico evolved. More companies are implementing now a corporate responsibility performance strategy. The CSR progress can be noticed in industries with high impact on environment and communities, especially in the petroleum sector. Reporting is still an embryonic practice and is not widespread across other industries, such as forestry, automotive and utilities.
Sustainable development has now a strong position on government agenda and it has also a section dedicated in the 2007–2012 National Development Plan. Many companies that practice Corporate Social Responsibility reporting use the guidelines proposed by the Cemefi (Mexican Philanthropy Center). Cemefi is now the main body for Social Responsibility in Mexico. The organization has gathered information on 273 companies since 2008. Only 27% of these are companies that report on corporate responsibility, according to Cemefi.
Only 10% of the Mexican N100 companies have a special section dedicated to corporate responsibility in their annual report, 7% publish a separate report and only 5% use external sources to comment or verify the contents of their reports, the rest relies on internal knowledge as “single source for assurance”. The main challenge for CSR practices in Mexico is to overcome the idea that being social responsible only involves acts of philanthropy or that it is enough to be perceived as a corporate citizen committed to welfare. Companies in Mexico face the challenge of including environmental issues as “one of the elements of competitiveness and economic and social development” (Mexican Business Web – MBW, 2011). At the same time protection of ecosystems and biodiversity has become a national problem in Mexico. The Latin American country occupies the fourth place among the countries with the greatest biodiversity. Nevertheless, Mexico is also among the countries where the ecosystems are threatened by destruction. Most of the 20th century the state had a big influence on the Mexican economy, but recently the private corporations have assumed a greater role in producing economic and social activities due to deregulation and the privatization of state-owned companies. Also, the weakness of Mexico’s regulatory system and the effects of government corruption have raised social expectations for the local businesses (Logsdon, Thomas, & Van Buren III, 2006, p. 2).
As a result, the corporate citizenship that exists in Mexican firms is rooted in the country’s own cultural history and development. Interestingly, the role of NGOs has not been as important in promoting CSR, rather firms engage in this kind of behavior for historical and cultural reasons (Logsdon, Thomas, & Van Buren III, 2006, p. 3). However, Mexico has a Social Responsibility Norm. “Social and Integrity Responsibility” that covers: labor aspects, human rights, environmental corporate management system and administration, Board members; and social and integrity responsibility. Currently, only a few Mexican companies issue sustainability reports. Primarily, large local corporations or multinationals are the ones producing these kinds of reports. However, more than 4,000 Mexican companies have achieved ISO 9000 or ISO 14000 certification (Deaton 2004, 2). Nevertheless, Mexico needs to attract foreign investment to grow its economy, thus it may be able to benefit by having more companies involved in CSR initiatives (Weyzig, 2007, p. 4). Therefore, Mexican companies not only have to produce CSR reports, but they also have to allow them to be observed and understood in the global context. Currently, Mexican firms’ CSR reports are only found in Spanish and cultural nuances have produced certain CSR orientations particular to Mexico (Weyzig, 2007).