On January 22, The Economist published its survey of corporate social responsibility. The Corporate Citizenship Company’s director David Logan responds:
It is right to take a sceptical view of the over-hyped aspects of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) debate and assert that corporate responsibility is only one aspect of running a successful market based enterprise. Nonetheless your survey is wrong on several fronts.
You say that CSR is a misguided concept, but see business ethics as valuable. In this, you fail to appreciate the value of a good CSR strategy is in it providing a framework that puts business ethics into context and into practice. At the heart of the debate is the question of how companies, as agents of the market, conduct themselves in the marketplace and in society as a whole.
From the point of view of the individual enterprise and its managers, important decisions have to be taken everyday that have real economic, social and environmental impacts. Good modern managers want to make a profit, but also minimise the negative impacts of their activities, and where possible expand the positive impacts of their enterprise in the interests of promoting its longer term economic viability. A CSR strategy is critical to help them do this.
As with any business strategy, CSR can be done well, leading to more effective and profitable businesses. Or it can be done badly, becoming burdensome and costly. Perhaps it would, as you suggest, be better to call it “good management”. Rather than dismissing CSR, you should examine what makes for good CSR. Ultimately, it should not be attacked as a new form of socialism, even if a few hope it is.
The Corporate Citizenship
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 80 – March, 2005
David Logan is a founding director of The Corporate Citizenship Company.
Over the last 15 years in consultancy, David has specialised in helping US and European companies internationalise their citizenship programmes and set up self-assessment systems to monitor and measure them.