Whose interests should a corporation serve?
Does business have any social responsibility beyond obeying the law?
Can we and should we expect a corporation to act for the interest of society?
Or, should we expect a corporation to
act only for the financial interests of its shareholder,
and only expect for corporations to be socially responsible if there is a business case?
Meaning, that there is a financial reason for doing so.
These are perhaps the basic questions of business ethics.
Recent years have witnessed a rise in
calls for businesses to be environmentally responsible.
Is the environment simply another item added to the list of business's social obligations?
Or, does becoming environmentally sustainable represent a new way of doing business,
and of being socially responsible?
Can there be a business case for sustainability?
I'm Professor Joe DesJardins,
from the Department of Philosophy at the
College of St. Benedict and Saint John's University
and these are the topics that we will explore in this presentation.
Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, as we shall call it,
refers to the responsibilities that a business has to the society in which it operates.
Now, no one denies that business has some social responsibility;
after all, the alternative to CSR is not corporate irresponsibility.
At a minimum, all agree that business has a social responsibility to obey the law.
Economists might also point out that business has
a social responsibility to produce the goods and services that society demands.
So, in general terms,
we can say that the primary question of CSR concerns
the extent to which business has any responsibilities to society
that go beyond obeying the law and producing goods and services.