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