Moving CSR from a Business Case to a Development Tool

Corporate Responsibility
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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Moving CSR from a Business Case to a Development Tool

CSR practices and their effectiveness vary across regions and localities. The mainstream CSR agenda still seems to neglect these differences and 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 CSR 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

  Ismael Bena MBA
Management Consultant, Netherlands

CSR as a Development Tool

I believe you raised a very good point here, and i (...)

  Love Lonnroth
Management Consultant, Sweden

CSR is a Development Tool

Many companies, notably Unilever and H&M, are alre (...)

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