Having informally observed an ongoing dialogue discussing social responsibility in business, it seems that the social responsibility at some point took a backseat to the prospect and mentality of higher profits at any cost (what's good for GM
). The transition I sense now is a movement toward incorporating social responsibility, which is to say incorporating an ethical code considering extrinsic matters and concerns, fluidly in business models. The revelation that business entities do not operate in a vacuum has led to an incorporation of externalities (e.g. community interests, environmental concerns, etc.) rather than the "bleeding hearts" that are probably most often associated with social responsibility in business. The first portion of this paper seeks to outline the emergence of social responsibility in the context of a continuum of developing business ethoses as well as personal responsibility, which is to say the responsibility of the people within the organizationbecause despite a cultural recognition of autonomy and separateness in relation to its people, common sense tell us that an organization and its people are inextricable. Described by Trevor Sargent as "an uneasy combination of two historically separate disciplines" the marriage of ethics and business is recognized by some, including many laissez faire economist types (which is not to suggest that free market endorsement is invariably linked with the mutually exclusive compartmentalization of ethics and business) as an undermining of free society, as Milton Friedman put it (Reasononline).
Nicholas Eberstadt established in his paper that the modern corporate responsibility movement sprung from the Depression. Eberstadt pointed to the Depression as a wakeup call of sorts in public perception of just what a corporation's role is. Eberstadt cited Ralph Nader to articulate the view that business exists to serve'. Nader extends this line of thinking in calling for accountability of a business' "action or inaction" and by doing so lays a great deal of responsibility on businesses. Eberstadt reveals a disruption in the continuum of development toward increased social responsibility by wars and the shift in public priorities that accompany them. The revelation that the corporate responsibility was stymied by decidedly more pressing concerns such as war is of great importance in understanding the psychology of such development. Maslow's oft-referenced hierarchy of needs illustrates the contingent nature of an individual human's needs, which applies to corporate responsibility twofold; as it is with individuals, if the lower need is unfulfilled, the higher need cannot be adequately addressed. Likewise, a business is unlikely to concern itself with anything abstract and/or non-immediate such as environmental protection or social welfare in the context of a society focused primarily on survival (i.e. a society at war). Further, the society, in such a preoccupied state, does not expect things like environmental protection efforts from its corporations, and rationally so as it has more pressing concerns. In 1928the precipice of the depressionthe two hundred largest corporations owned 30 percent of the nations manufacturing assets, today they own almost 60 percent (Eberstadt, 6). With larger scope comes larger influence, which means increased responsibility as well, perhaps why big business has become increasingly expected to be socially responsible in its integration into society's and their cultures. Eberstadt suggests that as the corporation is institutionalized, it has social obligations to fulfill (6). As businesses become increasingly monolithic, visible and influential, it seems highly reasonable that society at large would place an increasing responsibility on the organizations. With corporations wealthier than some countries, Nader's call to accountability, of both action and inaction, may well be justified, which is to say nothing of a...
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