Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents nothing less than a debate about the future of our society. Amidst issues of ethics, corporate governance, and other efforts to balance conflicting demands, society seeks to create the ideal mix of business success and societal acceptability.
Businesses are largely responsible for creating the wealth and well-being of society. However, they do not act alone. Governments are also crucial because they set the rules and parameters within which society operates, and nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations are needed where politics and profit do not reach. Nevertheless, without the innovation capitalism inspires, there is little social progress. Without the great wealth-producing engines of business, the taxes and charity needed to run government and nonprofits fade away—in time, reducing our standard of living to some primitive, pre-industrialization level. A simple example underscores these points: Look around and subtract everything produced by businesses. What is left?
Or, another example: What is the difference between the poorest and wealthiest nations? Is it not primarily the productivity and innovations of business organizations? And, where those organizations are absent or crippled by limiting regulations, political ideology, or limited resources, it is crushing poverty, ignorance, and disease that reign.
However ‘value’ is defined, businesses produce much of what is good in our society. At the same time, businesses can also cause great harm—as pollution, layoffs, industrial accidents, and other results of the profit motive amply demonstrate. But, when the self-interests of businesses and their stakeholders are aligned, the results can be widely beneficial—as the profit motive of business illustrates when a life-saving drug is created.
Between the great good and terrible harm business can induce lies an immense concern about the proper role of corporations in society, particularly as...
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