Emerging South-centered CSR Agenda

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Emerging South-centered CSR Agenda
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

It is now obvious that CSR practices and its effectiveness vary across regions and localities. However, the mainstream CSR agenda still seems to neglect these differences and it can be criticized to be too Northern-oriented. The mainstream CSR agenda primarily focuses on Northern interests and priorities and does not consider Southern perspectives adequately.
These criticisms have resulted in the emergence of a Southern approach towards CSR, taking into account the needs and priorities of local communities in the South. In this approach, the CSR agenda which includes environmental and social responsibilities, such as labor conditions and human rights, has been broadened to also include issues as poverty eradication and sustainable development in developing countries.

But because businesses have adopted CSR mainly as a business case, the extent to which private sector CSR practices can significantly contribute to severe issues such as poverty eradication is questionable. The typical business case for CSR focuses on creating a win-win situation: by being good and seeming to be good (social and environmental responsible), the company can improve their performance by for example improved reputation and increased consumer loyalty. However, the economic objectives of private businesses are often incompatible with development issues in developing countries. Therefore, a business case for CSR is hard to make in such cases.

In order to meet the broadened expectations of a more South-centered CSR agenda, businesses need to go beyond the business case for CSR and use it as a development tool: with such an approach, companies’ short-term self interests need to be pulled aside and issues as poverty reduction should be prioritized. But because “the business of business is business”, such a change in approach towards CSR is extremely challenging.

Do you think that businesses can go beyond the business case for CSR and use CSR as a development tool? What conditions are necessary for businesses to pull aside their primary objectives of increasing (financial) performance?

Idemudia, U. (2011) Corporate Social Responsibility and Developing Countries: Moving the Critical CSR Research Agenda in Africa Forward, Progress in Development Studies Vol. 11 (1) pp. 1-18
Newell, P. and J. G. Frynas (2007) Beyond CSR? Business, Poverty, and Social Justice: an Introduction, Third World Quarterly Vol. 28 (4) pp. 669, 681

CSR as a Development Tool
Ismael Bena - MBA, Management Consultant, Netherlands
I believe you raised a very good point here, and it correctly raises concern since corporations increasingly seek to incorporate Corporate Shared Value (CSV) to reach "win-win" situations (see CSR versus Porter's Shared Value discussion topic for more details). Ever since Porter et al. managed to push this concept into the lime light and married it to corporate strategy, corporations, including the EU Central government treated this as 'the' viable middle way to encourage CSR adoption as one of their regulative pillars.
In respect to your question; I think that society is the determinant factor to push companies and governments beyond this 'one dimensional' view of CSR, and to get more pressing social issues prioritized.
Furthermore, I also believe that social issues will always differ given the demographic, and this is neither wrong nor right but a fact we need to accept, since each community deals with its own set of challenges.

CSR is a Development Tool
Love Lonnroth, Management Consultant, Sweden
Many companies, notably Unilever and H&M, are already pushing the development agenda with both suppliers and governments in their efforts to create sustainable supply chain. They seem to have developed deep rooted values around sustainability that are really beyond the CSV concept. Some business leaders simply see it as their moral obligation to contribute to society. It is a matter of having a heart as much as a brain.


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Ismael Bena - MBA
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