Once a fringe idea, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now part of the business mainstream. Most major companies have CSR policies and leading CEOs regularly acknowledge their wider responsibilities to society and the environment. Lacking precise definition, CSR has thrived as a general ‘motherhood’ concept but has suffered because it encompasses such a wide range of business activity from supporting good causes and investment in community projects to employment practices and environmental and human rights impact management. CSR has always attracted its fair share of critics. Detractors have dismissed it as corporate philanthropy1 by another name or worse, as meaningless froth. Now, two more serious criticisms of CSR have emerged from separate ends of the political spectrum. This is not about philanthropy or giving something back to society as some kind of conscience-easer for taking so much out. It is levelled at the heart of the purpose of business and what companies, particularly large companies,2 are responsible for. It is about whether companies should take account of social and environmental concerns beyond those that clearly affect a company’s operating capabilities.
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- In Defence of Corporate Responsibility
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