determines the common good?
is ready to assign ad hoc activist groups the role of society's
social conscience. In the worst case, some have argued, relinquishing
the role of social conscience to special interest groups--which
may have no accountability to society or anyone else--could
ultimately lead to a sacrifice of individual freedom.
Financial Times columnist Richard Donkin feels there is definitely
a role for social activism in democratic societies, he points
out that some popular movements in the past have been wrong.
Adds Chris Fox, director of corporate relations of a major
British multinational, "Today's rapid reaction by a company
in the face of well-meaning protest may, several decades later,
be seen as an abrogation of responsibility by that business
to stand up and argue for what it believed to be right at
problem with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) demands
has to do with ethnocentricity on the part of activists in
developed western countries making demands that affect people
in very different cultures. Says Daniel T. Griswold, "There's
a real disconnect between the diagnosis of the social activist
in developed countries and the diagnosis from people who actually
live in poor countries. They want access to rich country markets.
They see that as their number one objective."
campaigns can sometimes backfire. For example, forcing western
ideas about labor standards on foreign countries has on occasion
resulted in less overseas investment and fewer jobs. In the
same way, raising alarmist concerns about the environment
may place unreasonable demands on business.
the absence of unintended consequences, there is no guarantee
that CSR standards will have their desired effect. Simon Caulkin,
writing in The Observer in April 2002, cited the example of
Enron as social responsibility gone amuck. While still solvent,
the energy giant made large contributions to the arts, sports
and medicine, but those donations in retrospect seem only
to have been intended to purchase reputation.
it is possible to reach an agreement on the desirability of
CSR standards, there is still no fundamental agreement on
what constitutes economic, social and environmental development.
And monitoring compliance may pose special problems. As an
example, The Financial Times in 2000 quoted McDonald's senior
director for global social responsibility as saying that because
social reporting was still in its infancy, there were no generally
accepted auditing practices to check on such issues as respecting
animal rights and practicing rainforest conservation.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Globalization: A Reassessment
by Randall Frost)