Why Corporations Should Not Abandon Social Responsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 83 (4):805-812 (2008)
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Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in his recent book Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (2007), rejects outright the call for increased corporate social responsibility. He believes that social responsibility advocates are wasting resources and efforts on a doomed project. This article suggests that while Reich raises several interesting concerns in his counter-intuitive book, especially about the rise in corporate political power, ultimately his argument is unconvincing. Worse yet, a careful reading suggests that Reich does not contemplate fully what it is he is asking business and society to give up in his call to jettison corporate social responsibility. The notion of corporate social responsibility is itself an extremely, valuable, and hard-won social asset. It is a vehicle for promoting transparency, more nuanced accountability, integrity, better communication, mutually beneficial exchange, and sensible development. In providing a language and vocabulary to critique business from both inside and outside its boundaries, it has becomes a necessary condition for business ethics and modern capitalism. It is especially important in a world of increasing global economics. Nevertheless, it is an extremely fragile asset. Books, like Reich's Supercapitalism, that dismiss corporate social responsibility in such a facile way, are dangerous and risky in ways that perhaps even the authors themselves are unaware



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