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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Monday, February 3, 2014

Strategic CSR - Consumerism

An integral component of the intellectual framework underlying Strategic CSR is the empowered stakeholder. If all stakeholders, whether consumers, regulators, suppliers, the media, etc., establish the values they wish to operate by and then enforce those values in their dealings with firms (favoring those firms that support them and discriminating against those that do not), then firms will quickly adapt their behavior to match these expectations. The article in the url below reinforces this idea by criticizing our current economic system that is driven primarily by consumerism—two critiques, in particular:
“The first is that the kind of shift we need in our society is deeply unlikely while the idea of people as Consumers dominates our language. The second is that to truly to solve our problems, we're going to need to move beyond acts of consumption as the primary means of participation in society.”
The first critique is important because the idea of consumerism, at least as currently practiced, is unsustainable:
“Set-piece social psychology experiments have shown that even a few words that prime people to think of themselves as Consumers, result in more selfish behaviour and attitudes and lower social and ecological motivation levels. … by the very act of reinforcing that mode of being they're actually undermining the extent to which we feel we have a genuine responsibility to anyone apart from ourselves.”
The article is also important because it criticizes those organizations that, even with good intentions, promote consumerism as a solution, rather than an inherent part of the problem:
“As the Consumer has become the primary role of the individual in society, the act of consumption has become the defining act of participation in society. Every time we see an ad that asks us only to transact, that prominence is being reinforced; we are being told we are Consumers and that how we spend our money is the extent of our power in the world. This is true even of most charity ads, and certainly true of the new wave of ‘shop for good’ ads, of which the latest offering comes from Innocent smoothies.”
The second critique is important because, having broken down the central tenet of consumerism, it is important to replace it with something substantive:
“The signs are everywhere that people have had enough of being Consumers, and are searching for rather more fulfilling ways to participate. … Brands can help us do this, and harness our help, by meeting us in the middle. … That's a really difficult world for the big boys to enter. But Unilever could easily encourage us to get involved in their work. … In this context, Innocent, so often the little guys who lead the corporate way, have seriously disappointed with their latest offering. Chain Of Good? Must try harder.”
The solution, the author argues, is an iterative relationship between firm and stakeholder—in other words, strategic CSR.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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The ‘just go shopping’ message from advertisers has a dangerous effect
By Jon Alexander
January 10, 2014
The Guardian