Category Archives: Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility: Governance Gain or Laissez-Faire Figleaf?

Source: Alan C. Neal, Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal v. 29 no. 4, Summer 2008

In his primer on “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) in Europe, Neal questions whether the popular slogan CSR is more than simply an “incantation” of corporate governance rhetoric. Neal defines CSR as voluntary behavior by corporations beyond existing legal requirements that is associated with notions of economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable corporate operations. CSR is promoted in Europe by the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation, and other international and quasi-governmental organizations on the grounds that it embodies the idea that corporations can profit while being responsive to stakeholders apart from their shareholders. The author argues to the contrary, that voluntary compliance by corporations is fraught, leading to the proliferation of reports by management consultants and auditors, but little in the way of meaningful benchmarks that can be used to measure changes in corporate activity. Furthermore, he cautions that licensing self-regulation in the absence of independent standards may in fact undermine existing international standards, such as those established by the ILO, by allowing companies more room to proclaim their business practices “accountable” or “responsible” without the sanction of traditional oversight or “hard” regulation. In sum, he argues for the development of regulatory approaches that preserve a distinction between the “economic” and “social” realms of society that CSR blurs.

Campaign for American Workers

Source: Rockefeller Foundation/TIME, 2008

From the executive summary of the survey:
Why do 78 percent of Americans believe we need a new social contract? Time has released the landmark Rockefeller Foundation/Time Survey, a wide-ranging gauge of Americans’ perceptions regarding their economic security. This groundbreaking poll of 2,008 Americans highlights potential paths for resolving the current economic crisis.
Key findings:
A. Social Contract Disintegrating
– The social contract of the 20th century, an agreement between the government, employers and society that affords Americans with basic necessities of the American Dream appears to be unraveling
– With worsening economy, Americans are receiving less help from traditional sources
B. American Dream Slipping From Reach
– Pessimism deepening about economic security
– Economic issues seem to have caused Americans to take action
C. Generation Y
– Generation-Yers may become another Depression-Era generation
– Younger generations are most likely to have failed to pay a bill or gone without healthcare because of the cost in the past year
D. Calling for New Solutions
– Government assistance & more programs needed
E. Minorities Have Bleak Outlook
– Minorities being hit hard by economic downturn
– Minorities are more likely to have failed to pay a bill or gone without healthcare because of the cost in the past year
– Some of the top solutions include environmental solutions as well as economic security empowerment solutions like job creation and wage increases

Appendix:
– Concern Over Personal Economic Security Has Doubled in One Year
– Concern Over Losing Job on the Rise
– Health Coverage & Pensions Are Valued More Than High Salaries
– Not Enough Personal Savings for Emergencies
– Although Americans are Cutting Back on Non-Essentials It Is Still Not Enough
– Cut Backs & Hardships Greater for Lower Income & Younger Americans
– Concern About Losing Health Care Coverage Has Increased
– Health Care Coverage Obtained Through Employer or Union
– Less Than 1/3 Saving Enough for Retirement
– Economic Security for Americans Have Dropped

Journalists Give Workers the Business – How the Mainstream Media Ignores Ordinary People in Economic News Coverage

Source: David Madland, Center for American Progress, June 20, 2008

From the summary:
The mainstream media has a profound impact on politics, helping everyday Americans determine what topics people think are important, shape how they feel about issues, and even how they vote.

Alternative media outlets such as blogs and social networking sites have proliferated in recent years, yet most people still receive their news from the mainstream media, which is especially true for economic news. This report focuses on how the mainstream media covers the economy, a subject where fundamental political questions arise about how income is generated and allocated among individual Americans and the businesses and companies they work for and sometimes invest in. Specifically, in its coverage of economic issues, does the media provide a balanced discussion of who gets what and why? Or instead is coverage biased toward a particular interest group?

Corporate Social Responsibility Through an Economic Lens

Source: Forest Reinhardt, Robert N. Stavins, Richard Vietor, HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series, RWP08-023, April 20, 2008

From the abstract:
Business leaders, government officials, and academics are focusing considerable attention on the concept of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), particularly in the realm of environmental protection. Beyond complete compliance with environmental regulations, do firms have additional moral or social responsibilities to commit resources to environmental protection? How should we think about the notion of firms sacrificing profits in the social interest? May they do so within the scope of their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders? Can they do so on a sustainable basis, or will the forces of a competitive marketplace render such efforts and their impacts transient at best? Do firms, in fact, frequently or at least sometimes behave this way, reducing their earnings by voluntarily engaging in environmental stewardship? And finally, should firms carry out such profit-sacrificing activities (i.e., is this an efficient use of social resources)? We address these questions through the lens of economics, including insights from legal analysis and business scholarship.

The Conscientious Investor: Social responsible investing is neither as profitable nor as responsible as advertised. But if you insist, here’s how to do it right

Source: Henry Blodget, Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 300 no. 3, October 2007
(subscription required)

The goal of “socially responsible investing,” or SRI, is to make lucrative investment choices that have a positive impact on the world. SRI comes in many forms, but one of the most common is avoiding investments in “bad” companies. You, of course, are eager to be part of this pioneering movement that will help the environment and your fellow human beings–to do well by doing good. So let’s play a game.

The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0

Source: David C. Wyld, IBM Center for the Business of Government, E-Government Series, 2007

Summary
Dr. Wyld examines the phenomenon of blogging in the context of the larger revolutionary forces at play in the development of the second-generation Internet, where interactivity among users is key. This is also referred to as “Web 2.0.” Wyld observes that blogging is growing as a tool for promoting not only online engagement of citizens and public servants, but also offline engagement. He describes blogging activities by members of Congress, governors, city mayors, and police and fire departments in which they engage directly with the public. He also describes how blogging is used within agencies to improve internal communications and speed the flow of information.

Based on the experiences of the blogoneers, Wyld develops a set of lessons learned and a checklist of best practices for public managers interested in following in their footsteps. He also examines the broader social phenomenon of online social networks and how they affect not only government but also corporate interactions with citizens and customers.
Subject: Public Sector

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Fledgling Movement Faces a Crucial Test

Source: Robert A. Senser, Dissent, Winter 2007

In his best-selling book Capitalism and Freedom, first published in 1962, future Nobel Laureate and world-renowned economist Milton Friedman laid down this basic principle for corporate executives: their sole social responsibility is to maximize the income and wealth of stockholders. “Few trends,” he wrote, “could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine.”

Union leaders, student activists, environmentalists, and advocates of various other types have long accepted that subversive doctrine. Of late, more and more top corporate officials, despite their own large stockholdings, have also done so. Though a tiny minority, they are pioneers in venturing outside the business path dedicated solely to maximizing the financial well-being of shareholders. Even in the business world, “the movement for corporate social responsibility has won the battle of ideas,” according to the Economist, the English-language media’s foremost defender of capitalism.