CSR, or Corporate Social Resposibility, is the subject of a “survey article” in the Economist this week by Clive Crook. It is complex and far-reaching, to say the least. As I physically stopped my socialist knee from jerking about, I opened my mind and some meaty ideas began to emerge. Like this one; Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations describes the idea that promoting self interest (as an individual/corporation) in turn serves the overall good of the people. Crook differentiates self-interest from greed.
“The kind of self interest that advances the public good is rational and enlightened.”
I can relate. While drinking plenty of wine with my women friends over the years, we often repeat the obvious; if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of anyone else?
I am more cynical than the author, however. I don’t happen to believe that left to their own devices (under governmental “scrutiny”, free market competition, etc.) corporations will automatically make a decision that ultimately serves the public good. Crook suggests many possibilities and scenarios that support the opposite, but I am not sold. The reason is simple: greed. ‘Cause even if people are intrinsically good (I believe that we are), bad decisions are often made around and within uncommon circumstances. Most of us will never be in the position to make a decision that directly influences millions of dollars streaming into (or out of) our own pockets. The power involved remains within the circles of our Elite, and history has painted a bleak foundation on which we build our greed palaces.