Corporate Social Responsibility: Now and Then

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With the recent corporate scandals involving such companies as Enron and Martha Stewart, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has once again made its way to the forefront of contemporary management ideologies. However, CSR itself is not a new concept. In fact, societies as far back as the Ancient Mesopotamians (circa 1700 BC) incorporated CSR in their businesses. "King Hammurabi introduced a code in which builders, innkeepers or farmers were put to death if their negligence caused the deaths of others, or major inconvenience to local citizens." With each new "Enron" managers of similar corporations are suddenly placed in the spotlight, causing plans to be put into action to create a more socially responsible company. Look in an annual report put out by any corporation and you will generally find an entire section, often called a "CSR Report," detailing how that corporation is continually striving to improve their CSR. So the question arises, are present corporations more or less socially responsible than the corporations of the past? Has implementing good CSR become a necessity for managers of today's corporations?

Milton Hershey is a prime example of someone who wholeheartedly believed in the concept of CSR. Upon building his chocolate manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania, Hershey built a school to support orphaned children, which still stands as the largest pre-K through 12th grade school in the United States. During the Depression, Hershey kept men employed with the construction of hotels, office buildings, and a sports arena. It was said of Milton Hershey that "[h]is personal convictions about the obligations of wealth and the quality of life in the town he founded have made the company, community, and school a living legacy" (Wolfe, Milton Hershey's legacy is of someone that understood the way a corporation should give back to its community and employees. We can wonder, what were Hershey's...
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