Saturday 20 March 2010

What is the real price of corporate social responsibility?

In recent years, a great deal has been said about CSR. Many have welcomed it; the right has damned it, blaming the fall of capitalism on naive do-gooders who allow themselves to be distracted from the holy duty of business: earning profits for shareholders.

Question: Has anyone cared to find out how much time and money businesses spend on doing good? How many businesses can be listed that may have lost out on profits because the managers were too busy saving the world? Did businesses wholeheartedly dedicated to enriching shareholders do a better job at enriching shareholders than the politically correct but economically illiterate stakeholder lovers?

We’ve heard the illuminating case studies of wonderful companies that went down the drain because the CEO turned saint. How about some data now? 

My guess: The hot air battle is so tempting, nobody’s gone out to find the numbers.

But consider this: Many successful professionals generously contribute time and money to good causes. They do not seem to suffer professionally because of that. In fact, they get publicity and contacts. Can that not hold for a collection of professionals, i.e., a business?

Anyway, I am a bit tired at the brilliant right railing against anything that contradicts Economics 101 (“I don’t care what it is; if it’s not in the textbook, it can’t exist; if it somehow does, it won’t or shouldn’t.”) blissfully forgetting the difference between models, simplifications and approximations (which all sciences are) and sacrosanct Gospel truth (which no science, thank god, is). 

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