1. Reading Ideas on Social Responsibility of Business
Some leaders of nonprofits and social impact investing have provided their reading recommendations on the topic of social responsibility of business.
For example, Sal Giambanco, Partner at Omidyar Network, suggests A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Christine Bader, Advisor to the UN Special Representative for business & human rights, recommends the David Foster Wallace novel The Pale King. This novel includes a long riff on corporate responsibility, in which one of the characters called “the whole dark genius of corporations” and how they diffuse liability “a fugue of evaded responsibility.”
Aaron Hurst, Founder and CEO of Taproot, has been reading The Power of Pro Bono by John Cary and associates at Public Architecture. He notes that this book beautifully showcases the impact that pro bono design can have for a nonprofit, by telling the story from both the architect’s and client’s perspective.
2. Conference on Social Responsibility of Business
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) held an inaugural conference on the social responsibility of business called the Pathways to Corporate Social Responsibility Conference in San Francisco.
This conference attracted both QA experts and CSR gurus to expound on their synergies and determine how to move forward in unison. The keynote speech was given by Aron Cramer, President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). BSR is a nonprofit business association that uses consulting, research and cross-sector collaboration to promote CSR.
Cramer believes that the quality community has much to offer on the issue of sustainability. He discussed key opportunities for quality to push the CSR envelope by creating basic guidelines for businesses to follow when incorporating CSR into their strategic business plan. He said that companies should start by looking at basic environmental economics, and how they can reduce their environmental impact.
3. What is the Social Responsibility of Business?
The famed conservative economist Milton Friedman wrote an article 40 years ago which argued that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. He had no patience for those who claimed that business should also have a ‘social conscience’, and wrote that this was “pure and unadulterated socialism.”
John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is one businessman who disagrees with Friedman. He is an ardent libertarian who believes that Friedman’s view is too narrow a description of the role of business in society, and that it woefully undersells the humanitarian dimension of capitalism.
Mackey believes that the enlightened corporation should try to create value for all of its constituencies. From an investor’s perspective, the purpose of business is to maximize profits, but that’s not the purpose for other stakeholders like customers, employees, suppliers and the community.