Will We Ever Learn? The Costs of Profiteering and the Path toward a New Way

By Leah Ritchie.

Published by The Organization Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Business and society need each other. Communities need industry to provide economic stability and innovation, while corporations rely on society for infrastructure, and stability. In the early part of the 20th century, literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR) emphasized industry’s social obligation to do no harm. It contained specific ethical imperatives that called for business to bear responsibility for the effects that their decisions had on society at large. By the end of World War II, corporations grew larger and more distant from the communities that they served. Competing discourses that questioned the importance of CSR also emerged at this time. In an attempt to remain relevant, CSR scholars shifted away from the normative approach and began publishing studies that demonstrated how CSR could positively affect financial and strategic performance of the firm. Business responded to this shift by applying CSR to maintain their customer base and to improve their financial and strategic performance. Although well-intentioned, the shift toward a performance-based model of CSR has had deleterious effects. It is argued here that this shift has significantly narrowed the field of CSR, and has diluted, if not eradicated, the do-no-harm standard in its most basic form. This paper traces the breakdown of the social compact between business and society, and provides a parallel view of the literature as it too departs from earlier socially-minded themes. Specific recommendations for recapturing a do-no-harm agenda is also discussed.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stakeholders, Minimum Behavioral Standard

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 10, Issue 12, pp.77-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 599.535KB).

Dr. Leah Ritchie

Chairperson, Management Department, Bertolon School of Business, Salem State College, Salem, MA, USA

Leah E. Ritchie earned a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1999. She was awarded the top dissertation in the field of organizational communication in May of 2000. She is currently an Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Management Department at Salem State College where she teaches courses in management, organizational behavior, conflict management, and negotiation skills. She has focused her research and teaching on promoting democratic practices in corporations. She sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Workplace Rights and was recently invited to co-convene a workshop on emancipation and organizational democracy at the Academy of Management. Dr. Ritchie also volunteers in the district court system as a certified mediator.

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