Progressing from Corporate Social
Responsibility to Brand Integrity
The decade from 1995 to 2005 was significant for corporate social responsibility (CSR). The year 2005 was 10 years since Shell's annus horribilis and their debacle over the disposal of the Brent Spar oil rig in the North Sea and 10 years since they were implicated in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian human rights activist who was murdered by his government for protesting about the distribution of revenues from what was perceived to be Shell's damaging extrication of oil from the Ogoni region of Nigeria. This decade also saw the flowering of the Global Reporting Initiative (www.globalreporting.org), out of the CERES Principles (www.ceres.org), the development of workplace management systems certification (SA8000), the birth of AccountAbility (www.accountability21 .net) and sustainability management systems assurance (AA1000S) out of the Institute for Social and Ethical Accountability, and the first five years of the United Nations Global Compact (www .unglobalcompact.org). In this chapter, I chart the development of some key ideas and initiatives in the CSR movement in the last decade or so and then suggest a new way forward for a movement that is looking for new directions.
Most pertinent to this chapter is the ongoing debate concerning the links between business profitability and global social progress. While the business benefits of CSR are a topic much debated and written about, it needs to be reiterated over and over again that business operates for the benefits of society, not vice versa. There can never solely be a business benefit from CSR—that is the ususal sense—but rather asocietal and ecological benefit in the widest sense. If a minority gain net material wealth in the short term at the gross expense of society and the planet in the short, medium, or long term, what real benefit is that? The only reason to argue the case for the business benefits from CSR is to make the case for business being more socially and ecologically responsible if we are to create a more just and equitable world that uses and shares resources for the benefit of this and future generations.
What, then, is the CSR agenda, and what has it achieved over the last decade or so? This question is linked to a number of significant reports from reputable research organizations that argue the case for CSR and profitability. Next, I discuss some thoughts on the link between capitalism and social progress. This is followed by an exploration of new territory, which argues that the emphasis should move from corporate social responsibility to brand integrity—but in an expanded sense of the term. Indeed, a link is made between the integrity of decision makers and consumers and the integrity of corporations via the integrity of their brands.
While good progress has been made on a number of corporate responsibility initiatives over the last decade, they have not been as successful as they might have been because we have failed to
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Publication information: Book title: The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility. Contributors: Steve May - Author, George Cheney - Author, Juliet Roper - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2007. Page number: 45.
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