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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Strategic CSR - Progress

In evaluating the purpose of the for-profit firm in society, it is useful to occasionally remind ourselves of how far we have come. The article in the url below touches on this subject:
"For most of the time that our species has been around, a man in his thirties had a fair chance of being dead already; a woman, too, often through childbirth. Evading violence, hunger and the elements was a human's daily lot. Even in modern history, people were bonded to the state through conscription or to the land through serfdom. Within memory, there was one role for women (mother), one for men (provider), one permissible sexual taste (straight), and even that was consecrated within marriage."
A large assumption of the framework presented in Strategic CSR is that, although all sectors of society played a part, the invention of the for-profit firm (in particular, the limited liability corporation) is a large reason for these advances – what the article attributes to "material progress." The speed and extent of change is quite remarkable (when you stop to think about it) given the short period of time involved:
"Most people for most of history lived in small communities, had few sexual partners and could not take food or other needs for granted. My friend is just two generations removed from a similar life, and that was on English soil. Now, in a city he shares with almost 9 million others, he goes on a hundred dates a year without having to do anything more strenuous than wait for his numerous apps to make matches. Without working very hard, he has surplus income."
None of this, of course, excuses behavior by firms that transgresses stakeholder expectations, but it does put things in perspective and, perhaps more importantly, should be accounted for among those who seek alternatives to market capitalism. The bar that needs to be cleared is inventing a system that creates more value than the system we currently have. If that bar cannot be cleared, then a more sensible solution is to improve the system we currently have. This is the approach of Strategic CSR, based within a set of assumptions about economic exchange and human psychology that helps us understand how the current system works and how we might end up with behavior from firms we say/think we do not want.
A historical perspective is useful in assessing how best the for-profit firm can benefit us. To be clear, the corporation is a social construction. We can shape it in any way that we please. What is important, however, is that we remember that it is a tool, not an agent with an independent consciousness; as such, it reflects the values of those connected to it (its stakeholders).
Take care
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The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at:
History's luckiest generation: We're getting away with it – For now
By Janan Ganesh
January 14/15, 2017
Financial Times – Life & Arts
Late Edition – Final