A response to David Parish on Corporate Social Responsibility
(FiBQ 17.3, pp. 13-19)
Gary Cundill finds that David Parish’s article in FiBQ 17.3 may be inadequate in its arguments that CSR should be adopted by companies who are not owned by Christians. He adds extra reasons for non-Christian profit-driven corporations to be enthusiastic about CSR
In FiBQ 17.3 David Parish has written a useful article on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). He has provided us with a historical introduction containing some delightful anecdotes, and he has highlighted some key aspects of the current state of play in this area of business activity. In illustrating some of the points he is making he quotes inspiring examples.
CSR is a large and controversial topic, and David has naturally had to be selective in his material in order to comply with the space constraints of the journal. Several of the issues he deals with could easily form the subjects of articles of their own. For example, I am very sympathetic to the idea of driving CSR via regulation. The question is begged, though – would it then be CSR, or merely legal compliance? This is an important issue, but not one that is practical to unpack in a paragraph or two.
I would suggest, however, that David’s description of CSR is marred by one significant flaw that ultimately renders his treatment of the subject unconvincing. He has not addressed adequately the issue of motivation – why is it that companies should engage in CSR?
In his section on corporate giving, David makes the bold statement that ‘business could and should do more in terms of giving’. The first component, the capability of business to give, is beyond the scope of this response. The second, normative point needs examination. Do David’s arguments warrant his assertion that business should do more in terms of giving?
The first is that companies benefit from community resources, and therefore should return something to these communities. At face value this argument certainly ‘feels’ right. It seems only fair that, if a company’s owners derive benefit from a company’s presence in a particular community, there should be some kind of quid pro quo. What has been forgotten, though, is that communities usually do derive benefits from local businesses. These are often in the form of jobs for community members, and the taxes that companies pay to various spheres of government. It only takes a visit to a mining town where the mine has closed down to realise…