Corporate Social Responsibility

[Disclaimer: I wrote this essay after I had finished my MBA but before I’d watched The Corporation.]

The goal of corporations is widely misunderstood. It is not to make a profit. The actual objective is to improve life on planet Earth by means of providing employment and producing needed goods. Corporations are socio-political entities that are given certain rights and limitations because it is commonly held that this organizational form is beneficial to society. In cost-benefit ratio terms, corporations will be promoted as long as their perceived contribution to society through goods produced, wages earned and investment income generated outweighs the environmental and societal costs. This understanding of the social contract forms the basis of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the related concept of Sustainable Development.

This cost-benefit ratio analysis is ultimately done by the citizens, given a democracy. In the United States, companies are given great freedom; we impose a limited amount of restrictions on the type of labor that can be hired, the kinds of goods that can be produced, and the level of environmental degradation that we find acceptable. We codify these in laws and expect the government to enforce these limitations. When we feel corporations are exploiting loopholes in these laws or wefeel established standards are not sufficient, we the people begin boycotting corporations, writing letters to governmental and business leaders, and other activities with the purpose of returning to a generally accepted cost-benefit ratio.

We must be involved in order for this system to work appropriately. CSR considers the costs and benefits to all of a corporation’s stakeholders—owners, workers, vendors, customers, community organizations and the government. The environment is not usually listed as a stakeholder; it is assumed that environmental community organizations represent this issue.

You, the consumer, must be informed and involved. Our planet and economy depend on it. “There is no business on a dead planet.”

CSR Books

Search for corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, or sustainable development at any major online bookseller. You’ll find more than you could ever possibly read.

In addition, these books may be of interest to you (I have not read them all):

Other books are listed in the Environmental section under Green Biz (CSR is much bigger than just ecological issues).

Online Resources

CSRwire.com The Newswire of Corporate Social Responsibility
Business Ethics The magazine of Corporate Responsibility
Eldis Eldis Corporate Social Responsibility Resource Guide
Business for Social Responsibility “BSR offers a large collection of online tools and guidelines on responsible business practices.”
Mallen Baker CSR News & Resources
British Government Site “We have an ambitious vision for UK businesses to consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of their activities…”
Mission Measurement Company that specializes in measuring the social impact of organizations and governmental programs.
Green Money Journal “Sustainable Business Books and Websites”
Ideals Work Guidance for consumers.
Interfaith Center on C.R. “Association of 275 faith-based institutional investors…”
World Economic Forum “Independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.”
CSR Europe “Our mission is to help companies achieve profitability, sustainable growth and human progress…”
Harvard CSR Initiative Education program.
CSR Watch The other side. “Your eye on the anti-business movement.”
The World Bank “Business, Competitiveness, & Development”
Strategis Canadian CSR
Asian Forum Asian Forum on CSR
U.S. Dept. of State “Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility Abroad”

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