Corporate Social Responsibility in Iran

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Introduction:
What is corporate social responsibility, and how it really is in Iran? Basically, due to several problems the country has been afflicted by during recent 3 decades, country’s economy and business is suffering from an unhealthy infrastructure and undesirable business atmosphere, so the struggling private business in Iran, has not been really engaged with the CSR. However, efforts have been made by international communities and domestic stakeholders to propagate the concept among the emerging generation of modern business owners, but it is sure far from what it should be. In this essay, first business status in Iran is briefly presented, and then the reasons for the absence of the CSR in Iran are studied. At the end recent activities in the area have been reviewed.

What is CSR?
Corporate social responsibility has been described by a wide range of definitions: "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large"(1), while a survey shows 68% of managers believe that Corporate social responsibility is seriously considering the impact of the company’s conducts and decisions on society (2) More amazingly the perception varies among different cultures: "CSR is about capacity building for sustainable livelihoods. It respects cultural differences and finds the business opportunities in building the skills of employees, the community and the government" from Ghana, and "CSR is about business giving back to society" from the Philippines (3). In USA CSR is considered as philanthropic activities, while it is used as a strategic tool and risk management investment by multi national companies in low income countries(4). In Iran, however the concept has entered the business vocabulary quit recently, though social responsibility has been part of Persian culture even before Islam, according to Zoroastrian teachings.

Islamic Revolution; Economic Consequences
Business and economy in Iran has suffered from various factors since Islamic revolution in 1979. The revolution changed the 2500 year old political system of the country from monarchy to some sort of republic, which aside from predictable affects of such a major change on the economy, damaged the economic and industrial structures of the country by several means. First, and maybe the strongest shock was confiscation of the assets of most of the major industrial investors and following prosecution of some of the most prominent figures of the country business, who were mostly close to royal family, after the revolution by the new regime, as a result of mistrust toward investment by new government, creating an unsecure investment atmosphere(5). Second was the breaking of all political and economical relations between Iran and USA, formerly the biggest foreign investor in Iran, in 1979 and 1980 and the consequent sanctions imposed by US on Iran (6, 5). The last but not least was the catastrophic 8 year war between Iran and Iraq, with estimated over one million casualties in Iran and about 500 billion USD cost for each side(7 and 8). Factors mentioned above, along with ill political and economical policies of the cleric government, left the country with very poor industrial and economical infrastructures. However, attempts were made for economic reform after war (1989), but even these were hampered with the election of the new president in 2005 (9).

Major export% of totalMajor import% of total
oil and gas82.7raw materials and intermediate goods46.2
chemical and petrochemical3.8capital goods34.7
dried fruits and nuts2.1consumer goods19
Table:Iran’s trade data, fall 2008(10).

Why CSR has been ignored in Iran?
As mentioned above, vibrant and significant private sectors of pre revolution Iran were taken over by state, and foreign...
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