The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at

Friday, August 31, 2012

Strategic CSR - Co.Exist

Fast Company Magazine has developed an extensive library of CSR and sustainability-related articles from its archives ( The range of articles is significant, but all focused around the website’s central theme:

This site is focused on groundbreaking innovation, innovation that’s going to change the way we live and the resources we use. We’re for brash and creative solutions, that make everyone rich while helping the people of the world lead lovely, clean, and fulfilling lives. … Those are the kinds of stories you’ll find here. Stories about world-changing innovations that are going to alter the way we live for the better in the next year--and over the next 100 years--in ways you can’t yet imagine. We’re going to fix things, no matter what it takes. But enough with being polite. It’s time to kick down the doors to find a solution.

More than enough here to sustain a career’s worth of investigation and creative thought.

Have a good weekend

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strategic CSR - Life

The article in the url below is refreshing. It is an open letter to the graduating university class of 2012. The opening couple of sentences set the tone—that of a man who has just read through a lot of resumes:

Dear Class of 2012: Allow me to be the first one not to congratulate you. Through exertions that—let's be honest—were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree.

Skipping over the political jabs (this is the WSJ op-ed page, after all), the author’s message boils down to four “facts”:
  • Fact One is that, in our "knowledge-based" economy, knowledge counts. Yet here you are, probably the least knowledgeable graduating class in history.
  • Fact Two: Your competition is global. Shape up. … In places like Ireland, France, India and Spain, your most talented and ambitious peers are graduating … . Unlike you, they probably speak several languages. They may also have a degree in a hard science or engineering.
  • Fact Three: Your prospective employers can smell BS from miles away. … To read through your CVs, dear graduates, is to be assaulted by endless Advertisements for Myself.
  • Fact Four: There will always be a market for people who can [think for themselves].

The author uses the example of an intern he interviewed recently as an example of the exemplary student:

No doubt some of you have overcome real hardships or taken real degrees. A couple of years ago I hired a summer intern from West Point. She came to the office directly from weeks of field exercises in which she kept a bulletproof vest on at all times, even while sleeping. She writes brilliantly and is as self-effacing as she is accomplished. Now she's in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. … Not many of you will be able to follow in her precise footsteps, nor do you need to do so. But if you can just manage to tone down your egos, shape up your minds, and think unfashionable thoughts, you just might be able to do something worthy with your lives.

Although it is certainly a strong message, I think all students would benefit from hearing it. I can’t help thinking, however, that this is something they should be told as freshmen, not graduating seniors.

Take care

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To the Class of 2012
By Bret Stephens
May 8, 2012
The Wall Street Journal

Monday, August 27, 2012

Strategic CSR - Moral limits

Many of you will have seen earlier this year the publication of the book “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” by Michael Sandel of Harvard University ( Sandel teaches a hugely popular course at Harvard titled ‘Justice,’ a semester-long series of classes from which are posted online ( Over the summer, I saw an interview of Sandel on the PBS Newshour by its economics correspondent, Paul Solman:

The interview was good, as is the book, but one quote by Sandel stood out:

Over the last three decades, we've actually drifted, without quite realizing it, from having a market economy to becoming a market society.

Sandel went on to explain what he meant by the distinction:

A market economy is a tool, a valuable and effective tool, for organizing productive activity. But a market society is a place where almost everything is up for sale. It's a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life, and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values.

This insight resonated and stayed with me for a while. I saw a couple of interviews Sandel gave to promote his book and, in both of them, he struggled to define the line of what is morally acceptable and what is unacceptable. The approach of the interviewers always seemed to be: “Is this OK?” “Well, what about this?” “And, what about this?” etc., etc. To his credit, Sandel stated that he is not trying to define the line of acceptability in determining morally appropriate behavior, but making the broader point that:

… the question that worries me is, when almost everything in our public life, not just access to the fast lane, is sold off to the highest bidder, something is lost. Money comes to matter more and more in our society. And against the background of rising inequality, that takes a toll on the commonality of our civic life. … My concern is with the accumulated effect. Are we cheapening important social goods and civic goods that are worth caring about?

The article in the first url below quotes Sandel making the same point more directly:

‘When we decide,’ he goes on, ‘that certain goods may be bought and sold, we decide, at least implicitly, that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities.’

Ultimately, however, a weakness in Sandel’s argument is that it is relative rather than absolute. He is not arguing from a point of principle (i.e., an action is absolutely right or wrong), more that too much of an action is harmful, but some of it is OK. Although expedient, this weakens what he is saying somewhat. Adopting this approach makes drawing the line between right and wrong, between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, extremely difficult to do (as demonstrated in the interviews he gave). Worse, it becomes a subjective exercise, which allows each of us to rationalize what we deem to be OK. Again, while I understand why he adopted this less stringent standard, the result is unhelpful in the broader sense because behavior becomes determined by the individual, rather than some aggregated sense of what is socially most beneficial.

One other criticism I have relates directly to the book’s title. It is not really the moral limits of markets that Sandel is concerned with, but the application of a dollar-value to goods and services that were previously valued in different ways. For example, in Chapter 1, Sandel makes a big deal about how we can now increasingly pay to cut the queue (think paying extra to go through airport security faster, or ticket scalpers that re-sell highly sought after tickets well above face value). Sandel critiques economists’ justifications for such actions on the basis that it is not only willingness to pay that demonstrates demand for a product, but also ability to pay (poorer people are less able to do so than richer people). Queues, Sandel contests, are more democratic and, therefore, more morally justifiable. What Sandel does not appreciate, however, is that queuing for something is also a market—a market valued in time, rather than money. While the poor student can argue that s/he cannot  afford to buy tickets for a popular concert or sporting event, the wealthy CEO can argue with equal justification that s/he cannot afford the time to queue for the same ticket. Queuing or paying both serve the same function—to ration a scarce product using a scarce resource (for the student, money is scarce, but for the CEO, time is scarce). As such, it is not the moral limits of markets that Sandel should be targeting, but the moral limits of money. While both markets (money and time) have their moral limits, an increasing focus on one type of market over another (i.e., money over time) favors one group of society (the money rich) over another (the money poor), but Sandel’s queues similarly favor a different group (the time rich over the time poor).

The second part of the Solman interview can be seen at:

The article by Thomas Friedman in the second url below adds further commentary on Sandel’s book:

Throughout our society, we are losing the places and institutions that used to bring people together from different walks of life. Sandel calls this the “skyboxification of American life,” and it is troubling. Unless the rich and poor encounter one another in everyday life, it is hard to think of ourselves as engaged in a common project. At a time when to fix our society we need to do big, hard things together, the marketization of public life becomes one more thing pulling us apart.

Take care

Instructor Teaching Site:
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at:

In Economists We Trust
By Jonathan V. Last
April 21-22, 2012
The Wall Street Journal

This Column is Not Sponsored by Anyone
By Thomas Friedman
May 13, 2012
The New York Times

Friday, August 24, 2012

Strategic CSR - White-collar crime

Who ever said that crime does not pay? As white-collar criminals are increasingly sent to prison, the article in the url below reports on the birth of an industry that is designed to smooth their transition to life on the inside:

Advising panicky white-collar criminals on what life is like behind bars is a bull-market business, what with all the arrests on Wall Street for insider trading. As America's lockups have become more crowded, so has the prison-prep industry, a field built for white-collar criminals with the means to pay for lessons on coping with strip searches and with getting along with a tattooed cellmate named Bubba.

The advice focuses on the practical:

White-collar inmates-to-be are taught that currency in prison includes stamps and canned fish. There are many no-no's, including taking someone else's laundry out of a dryer, changing the TV channel or looking at another guy in the shower.

Above all:

Be polite. … [and] Stealing is seriously frowned upon.

Good advice! Of course, it probably would have been better if they had avoided whatever behavior landed them in prison in the first place!

Have a good weekend

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The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at:

School for Scoundrels: Doing Time in Prison Prep School
By Michael Rothfeld
March 26, 2012
The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strategic CSR - Welcome back!

Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first Newsletter of the Fall semester is below.
As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.

There are two exciting developments happening in the Strategic CSR world this Fall:

       1.   Third edition: Sage has asked us to write the third edition of Strategic CSR. Most of this writing will occur this semester. Sage has already sent the second edition out to review and we have received some very helpful comments, but I would like to extend the opportunity to contribute to the Newsletter distribution list. As such, if you have any ideas for how the second edition can be improved, please let me know in the coming weeks. These ideas can involve existing areas of the book that need improving, as well as currently excluded areas or issues that you think need to be included in the third edition. All ideas are welcome! The third edition is due to be published in the summer, 2013.

      2.   Online simulation: I have been interested for some time in exploring the idea of an online simulation to complement the third edition. While there are a number of simulations on the market, there are few that are written focusing solely on CSR and business ethics. Earlier this year, I approached a colleague with the necessary technical knowledge and interest in CSR (Michael Hendron, Brigham Young University), and Mike agreed to see what we can come up with. The protagonist in the simulation is the Corporate Responsibility and Ethics Officer (CREO) of K-Tai, Inc., a fictional cell phone company headquartered in California, but with a supply-chain that reaches around the world. Based on various CSR and business ethics-related scenarios, students adopt the CREO role and evaluate K-Tai, Inc.’s options, making internal recommendations to the firm’s senior executives in an attempt to influence strategy and maximize stakeholder value. We are currently undergoing classroom testing and also gauging what demand there is for such a teaching resource. For those interested, please feel free to set-up an instructor’s account and explore at:

I will be traveling on and off for much of this semester, but of course will not stray too far from internet access. I will do my best to maintain a steady flow of Newsletters, but apologies in advance for any interruption in service.

With either the third edition or simulation (or the Newsletters or general questions about the book), please feel free to e-mail me with any questions at any time. The goal is to make these tools as helpful to your work in the classroom as they can be.

Take care

Instructor Teaching Site:
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: