Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An obituary for CSR

By Jeremy Sweeney
It is 2010 and CSR is dead, having lived a successful and important life. A group of leading contemporaries of CSR have composed an obituary.

Jeremy Sweeney reports

They write: "The founder of the corporate sustainability movement, Corporate Social Responsibility, died this year aged 50, after a long struggle with definition.

Initially very much an outsider, CSR spent the early years largely ignored in favour of the initially more attractive Pure Capitalism.

However, eventually corporations came to recognise and value the important work done by CSR in the ethics of resource and people management; even if the reasons for doing so often reflected more of a desire to protect reputations, than because they respected or even liked CSR.

Whatever the cause of the newfound popularity, CSR helped ensure that more resources were made available to create more equality of opportunity and improved life chances for more people in the world.

In doing so, the relationship between businesses and the people on whom they depended, was undoubtedly enriched.

CSR is credited with re-humanising a business world that had become perilously detached from the physical and cultural environment in which it operated.

CSR was also a founder member of the movement that believed that it was possible to come to work because you enjoyed it; and nurtured the idea that people would prefer to work in, and conduct business with, corporations that wanted to do good as well as maximise short term profits – hence coining the phrase ‘enlightened self interest’.

In the later years, CSR's reputation for valuing privacy came under scrutiny as various more or less satisfying relationships with Business and Government developed.

However, despite many approaches, marriage never materialised.

Having indulged in the occasional, though much loved, ‘refresher’, CSR was often heard to say about the many suitors, “They all want me now, but how can I trust that it is for the right reasons?”

CSR is survived by an adopted child, Sustainability.

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