Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s not that simple these days (come to think of it, was it ever?)

mcgrath works

On the Economist website several years ago there was an online debate about Gross Domestic Product as an appropriate measure of human welfare. The essence of the argument against GDP as an indicator was that living standards should include a broader measure of the human condition. The debate is, in a macro way, analogous to the discussion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the “ethical company”. To what extent do businesses have an impact beyond their purely economic role of providing goods and services in the marketplace? And to what extent should they address that impact in conducting business?

Let me first say that I am uncomfortable with the term “ethical company.” People who use it seem to imply that a company is “good” as opposed to an ordinary company. If only life were that simple. Ethical questions, it seems to me, aren’t about good and evil – two words that can take…

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