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Global economic and environmental circumstances require that business in the twenty-first century be practiced in a way that is economically vibrant enough to address the real needs of billions of people, yet ecologically informed so that the earth’s capacity to support life is not diminished by that activity and ethically sensitive enough that the human dignity is not lost or violated in the process. This paper will argue that any adequate model of corporate social responsibility (CSR) must meet these three normative standards: it must be economically, environmentally, and ethically sound. My argument to support this conclusion falls into two parts: arguments against the adequacy of mainstream models of CSR to meet these standards and arguments in support of the sustainability alternative. This alternative provides a contemporary model of the good company that is true to the Christian tradition as well as being economically and environmentally satisfactory for addressing global needs.
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Milton Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,” New York Times Magazine, 1970.
See Norman Bowie, “Morality, Money, and Motor Cars,” reprinted in Contemporary Issues in Business Ethics, DesJardins and McCall (eds), Belmont, California: 2005, 5th ed.
The distinction rests upon the view that there is an ethically significant difference between acting and refraining, a distinction that has been seriously challenged. See, for example, the well-known essay by James Rachels, “Active and Passive Euthanasia” ( New England Journal of Medicine, 1975) in which Rachels argues against the moral significance of this distinction as it has been employed in the ethics of euthanasia.
See Beyond Growth, by Herman Daly (Beacon Press, Boston: 1997).
My own thinking on this has been particularly influenced by three approaches. Herman Daly’s writing on ecological economics and especially in Beyond Growth; Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken’s Natural Capitalism; and William McDonough and Michael Braungart, in “The Next Industrial Revolution” and elsewhere.
These estimates are from Lester Brown, Eco-Economy: Building an economy for the Earth (W.W. Norton & Co., New York: 2001), Chapter 1.
- Doing Well by Doing Good: Distinguishing the Right from the Good in Theories of Corporate Social Responsibility
Joseph R. DesJardins
- Chapter 7
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