You note that CSR is different than managing for stakeholders - and that if managing for stakeholders is done well, we can just drop the CSR movement. What exactly do you mean by that?
If we are fulfilling all of our responsibilities to customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and financiers, and creating value for them, what does it mean to ask "are we socially responsible". Oftentimes CSR can serve as an excuse not to fulfill those baseline stakeholder responsibilities, or it serves to apologize for, rather than prevent harmful consequences. Take care of stakeholders and CSR takes care of itself.
While there is a major difference between the two, why does CSR have such a high public relations value? Are companies engaging in CSR for the right reasons, or is it just PR games?
There are many reasons that companies engage in CSR. Some are good reasons and some not. I resist the temptation to comment on all companies, or to reduce a complex issue to a simple motivation.
While managing for stakeholders DOES include employees - and making it a better corporation for them - how does that extend to employees being ambassadors for the brand? What is their duty in managing (or in CSR)?
Surely you want to run your company so that your employees believe in what they are doing, and are willing to say that they believe in it. If that is being an ambassador for the brand, then its a good idea. More generally we need to think about, as my colleague Andrew Wicks has argued, what makes a "responsible stakeholder". After all if companies have responsibilities to stakeholders, don't stakeholders have a responsibility to companies?
Especially this month - Earth Day month - companies all tout their green initiatives, and many feel forced. What would stakeholder theory change that companies wouldn't have to PR and tout their efforts for one month (be it Earth Day or breast cancer month in February)?
Again…this is a matter of taking one's responsibilties seriously…as many companies do. It is the old story about business that only profits and shareholders count, which give rise to questions like this. Businesses create value for their stakeholders. Many companies take that seriously. Its not a matter of "just PR" etc. It's quite real. It's the business model.
Is CSR a real viable business solution that dovetails with stakeholder theory? There are companies that are doing it to just check off a box on a list, but does stakeholder theory make it more viable, make it more aligned to business goals?
Stakeholder theory is about the business. It is also about ethics and responsibility. WE have to learn not to separate these ideas, as the old story does.
With stakeholder theory, it seems like the cost of any program is okay if it brings value to the community or employees, while most CSR has an underlying increase sales premise. How can stakeholder theory improve the bottom line?
Absolutely not…Business is about creating value for financiers, customers, employees, suppliers, and communities. Their interests need to go in the same direction. Stakeholder theory is about finding ways to put these interests together, not break them apart as your question assumes.