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

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Strategic CSR - Shared value

One of the main obstacles to generating change in corporations' understanding of CSR is the media's narrow reporting on the issue. Time and time again, I see plenty of evidence that business reporters in respected media outlets have only a rudimentary understanding of the complexity of a subject like CSR, not to mention some of the more basic tenets of capitalism (such as what profit represents and the legal relationship businesses have with their shareholders). The article in the url below is a good example of the danger of possessing insufficient knowledge:
"There is something appealing about the concept of 'shared value.' The strategy, first articulated by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School and the management consultant Mark R. Kramer, is based on the belief that companies can increase profits and enhance their businesses even as they address pressing social problems."
To suggest that Porter and Kramer "first articulated … the belief that companies can increase profits and enhance their businesses even as they address pressing social problems" demonstrates an ignorance of the debate that is astounding. I have detailed my criticism of Porter and Kramer's article elsewhere (see Strategic CSR – Porter & Kramer). Suffice it to say, I am not a fan. While they may have come up with the term "shared value" (primarily to serve their own consulting purposes), there is nothing in the article that is new to anyone who has spent any time thinking about CSR.
What I find particularly annoying about the fawning attitude a journalist like Eduardo Porter has towards Michael Porter, however, is that it impedes the prospect of meaningful change. In the case of the article below, the author concludes that companies that "have no time for 'shared value' … [instead are] making an entirely different case: Addressing social problems will have to take a back seat to the bottom line." He makes this assertion as if "addressing social problems" and "the bottom line" are completely unrelated. The result of this flawed logic, which is directly influenced by Porter and Kramer's work, is to suggest that CSR "has its limits" instead of the more important conclusion the author could have arrived at (that CSR is all-encompassing and central to every business) if he had a more sophisticated understanding of the subject about which he was writing.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Corporate Action on Social Problems Has Its Limits
By Eduardo Porter
September 9, 2015
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final