05 October 2007

The Economist & CSR: From Foes to Friends

What a difference two years can make. CSR has made it into mainstream:

Economist '2005 :
The respected conservative weekly was pretty much on the side of Milton Friedman's "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits". It dismissed CSR not only as a superficial PR exercise but even dismissed as counterproductive. "CSR cannot be a substitute for wise policies in these areas. In several little-noticed respects, it is already a hindrance to them...To improve capitalism, you first need to understand it. The thinking behind CSR does not meet that test."

Economist '2007:
It seems that the benefits that have been well documented (e.g. in Michael Porter's article) for some time, are becoming mainstream finally. In response to a CSR-critical book “Supercapitalism” the Economist writes:
"[D]one well, CSR can motivate employees and strengthen brands, while also providing benefits to society. Understanding and responding to the social context in which firms operate is increasingly a source of new products and services, observes Jane Nelson of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Telling firms they need not act responsibly might cause them to under-invest in these opportunities, and to focus excessively on short-term profits."

Simon Zadek, the boss of AccountAbility summarizes the state of CSR in a nice way: “The ‘whether in principle' conversation about CSR is over,” he says. “What remains is ‘What, specifically, and how?'”. Answers to these important questions is what the UN Global Compact with its local networks in over 70 countries tries to foster. And this blog highlights some of outstanding business4good cases.

Thanks to the Triple Bottom Line Blog