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Corporate Charades: Part 2. Social responsibility programs

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I wrote a few years ago that corporate social responsibility (CSR) "is mostly a fa├žade---to divert the public's eye from corporate misdeeds and corporate welfare." [1] Not that there is much of a difference in the two nouns' meaning but I write here that CSR is also a charade, the pretending of being socially responsible while being socially irresponsible.

CSR Buzz Word: The "Triple Bottom Line"

The "triple bottom line" has become a fashionable term in corporate circles for CSR. It is strictly a buzz word. It is also a superfluous concept. There are only two bottom lines in accounting for any endeavor, corporate or otherwise. One is the bottom line of behavior. The other is the bottom line of results. The first divides positive behavior (competent, motivated and ethical) from negative behavior (incompetent, unmotivated, and unethical). The second divides positive results (benign) from negative (harmful) results. The merging of these two lines helps to account for success that is ill gotten and for failure despite the very positive behavior that preceded it. A responsible corporation penalizes, not rewards the negative successes and appreciates, not penalizes positive failures.

The Real Meaning of CSR

CSR means 1) staying financially viable, 2) providing socially beneficial products and/or services, 3) without knowingly causing any physical, psychological, financial or ecological harm, 4) without externalizing costs (e.g., job outsourcing, waste disposal), 5) without seeking or depending on "warfare welfare" or other government favors such as corporate personhood recognition, campaign financing, lobbying, subsidies, revolving doors, laissez-faire regulations, or criminal immunity, 6) conducting business ethically and legally, and 7) treating all stakeholders fairly and with dignity. [2]

The rationale for the first criterion is that a segment of society depends on the corporation for their livelihood. Staying afloat is not just being financially responsible. However, my cliche' for those corporations that meet only this criterion is that "beauty is far more than money deep."

The rationale for rejecting corporations mainly in the defense industry is that a compelling argument can be made and has been made that no war is just. [3] I realize some people would regard defense contracting to be a patriotic duty, but it is costly and dangerous patriotism ("my country right or wrong" instead of "my country please do no wrong"). I once calculated that a peacetime budget since the end of WWII would have saved over ten trillion dollars, more than enough to meet pressing domestic needs. [4]

The rationale for the other criteria is that they are hallmarks of the corpocracy. It is far more egregious than just being socially irresponsible. It is directly responsible for America being ranked the worst among industrialized nations on various measures such as income inequality and unemployment; [5] for America being the most imperialistic nation on the globe; [6] and for America being vulnerable to continuous blowbacks from drone strikes and other forms of unending, devastating and deadly military aggression done solely for profit and power. [7]  

CROs and CROA

"CROs" aren't the countless ones in the farmer's corn field. There are few CROs actually. I'm not exactly sure how few, maybe somewhere between 50 and 100 (in 2007, the last year I saw figures only 10% of the Fortune 500 had CROs).

Can you imagine being called a CRO, short for Chief Responsibility Officer? Why would a corporation want to pay more just to give the title CRO to someone? CFOs are wondering, too. More than half of CFO's (short for "Chief Financial Officer") for whom corporate money really matters, when recently surveyed were lukewarm at best about elevating a corporate member to CRO. [8]

CROs know they need to rely on self-promotion.   So they now belong to CROA, the Chief Responsibility Officers' Association.   A survey in 2012 of CROs was not too encouraging for their kind; "CR remains a nascent profession lacking the distinct set of professional characteristics; CR field lacks a deliberate career path; and the progress of the corporate responsibility officer (CRO) is continuously evolving." [9] The survey was sponsored incidentally by CROA, and by, get this, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center. It's an arm of one of the wealthiest and most powerful lobbyists for corporate America and hardly a paragon of lobbyist social responsibility. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one reason I have been promoting the idea of a U.S. Chamber of Democracy.  

The CR Magazine

CR Magazine is published by SharedXpertise Media, LLC. Its aim is to "provide senior executives with unparalleled learning, meeting, and networking experiences on corporate responsibility, human resources and financial management." In a press release CR Magazine's publisher boasted about how its annual list of the "100 Best Corporate Citizens" is widely watched and "as a result, making the List is worth millions or even billions in increased shareholder and brand value." [10]

So CR Magazine is all about money hustling and hype. Shareholders aren't liable for corporate criminality and even benefit from it. Brand value is hyped by advertising and marketing blitzes. I doubt if CR Magazine has any credibility at all to critics of America 's corporations, especially if they know that Monsanto, for example, is on CR's 2013 list and for the fourth time. [11]

Monsanto? Really?

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Gary Brumback Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Retired organizational psychologist.

Author of The Devil's Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; America's Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying; and Corporate Reckoning Ahead.

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