The recent release of the Financial Inquiry Commission report offers a gruesome picture of Wall Street wheeling and dealing although blame is apportioned to many. Similarly, the Presidential Commission Inquiry on the BP oil spill in the Gulf documents extensive corporate corner-cutting and deceptive communications. Given such examples of corporate irresponsibility, one might look skeptically at corporate America’s attempts to gloss over disasters such as these through clever ad campaigns.
Suggesting that the American taxpayer should help bail out the reputations (and finances) of discredited businesses seems disingenuous at best. But who should be held responsible for corporate actions that impact society? Who will provide restitution to injured parties? And what changes might help prevent disasters or simply avoid bad outcomes? Just what does the term “corporate social responsibility” really mean and to whom should it be applied?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been considered, at worst, an apology for misbehavior and, at best, a way to demonstrate an agenda larger than profit-seeking. Examples of corporate social responsibility include donations to charities or non-profits, modifying business practices to ensure more eco-friendly sourcing, instituting family- and diversity-friendly workplaces, and in some cases, building business models that meet consumer demands in line with societal ethics (think social enterprises).