This paper investigates the pressing philosophical issue about whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) is enough to save the grace and virtue of organisations. This question is framed by the pertinent question: Which of two opposing positions, profit or moral purpose drives CSR? This paper attempts to answer these questions by looking at what the literature reveals.
This assignment feeds into a combined paper.
Business Philosophy (BSF 800), Assignment 1
By Henk Boshoff
DIVISION OF COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT In the FACULTY OF ECONOMIC AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES At the UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA
Promoter: Dr. E. De Beer
Date of submission: 2017-03-27
Table of Content
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
- Background.. 1
- Introduction.. 2
- Philosophical Questions.. 2
- Stakeholder Theory.. 4
- The separation thesis.. 6
- corporate social responsibility (CSR) 7
- And on to Corporate Citizenship (CC) 11
- The Dichotomy.. 11
- Utilising the separation thesis.. 13
- Communication management in CSR leadership.. 16
- Conclusion.. 18
- LIST OF REFERENCES.. 21
Figures and Tables
This paper feeds into a research article that conceptualises the term ‘responsible communication’ and argues its contribution to management theory.
The relational framework process model devised to conceptualise responsible communication is depicted below as background. This paper manages to touch on virtually all elements of this model directly or indirectly.
Building the conceptualisation from the ground up, the proposed concept of responsible communication is grounded in stakeholder theory, which will be discussed with emphasis on a key challenge regarding a universally agreed definitional conceptualisation which must validate or invalidate its applicability and business case. This issue also besets corporate social responsibility (CSR), and its conceptualisation –or lack thereof, will also be investigated. The second issue native to both CSR and stakeholder theory is the question of what they serve, profit or moral conviction, which presents a dichotomy that will be explored. The philosophical issues that guide this paper, framed as questions, will be answered. This will be approached by investigating specifically the separation thesis and the philosophical contradictions it presents, because consequences of CSR activities can be both positive or negative for the organisation, whether intended or not. Finally this paper argues that CSR in its current configuration cannot save the organisation’s virtue on its own, but that a different approach to the way in which CSR is approached, used and staffed in an organisation can play a leading role in building reputational capital, specifically in how it helps determine how both profit and virtue drives its activities.
This paper investigates the pressing philosophical issue about whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) is enough to save the grace and virtue of organisations. This question is framed by the pertinent question: Which of two opposing positions, profit or moral purpose drives CSR? This paper attempts to answer these questions by looking at what the literature reveals.
This paper will considers stakeholder theory with specific reference to the ‘separation thesis’ that has plagued it since its inception.
Next CSR is discussed to supplant this stakeholder theory conundrum onto it, to indicate why the question about the nature of its drivers is important, which contextualises the philosophical question about CSR’s ability, or inability to save the virtue of the organisation. Vogel’s (2005) re-framing of CSR to virtuous activities are also covered because his frame makes the issue more tangible.
A brief look at Corporate citizenship serves to show how the dilemma of the drivers of CSR follows developments of CSR, thereby highlighting the need for a way to solve or deal with it in response to the question regarding its driving motive.
A section is dedicated to a novel approach suggested by Sabadoz (2011) to solve, if not the polarising CSR conundrum of profit-seeking versus pro-sociality drivers, then at least to frame this CSR dichotomy anew for the purpose of using; Firstly, its ability to serve as a supplement, a contextually adaptable counterpoint for profit seeking, and secondly, as a means to keep its viability as a normative, and useful discourse alive. This is achieved by what Sabadoz conceptualised as ‘Corporate social responsibility as Derridean supplement’ Sabadoz (2011:77).
A personal interpretation of how arguments discussed in this paper can be applied in the Communication management discipline concludes this paper.
Stakeholder theory was popularised by Freeman (2010) with his seminal book ‘Strategic management, A stakeholder approach’. It effectively established the field of Business and Society (Katsoulakos & Katsoulakos, 2006:13). It is a comparatively new theory in how it introduces the concept of stakeholders into strategic management (Fontaine, Haarman, & Schmid 2006:26).
The concept of stakeholder theory whas been traced as far back as the work of Follet in 1918 (Schilling, 2000 in Fontaine et al., 2006:8), but its emergence in management theory propelled it to its current position of prominence. Freeman’s goal was to develop a framework responsive to managerial concerns about being confronted with unprecedented levels of environmental turbulence and change (Fontaine et al., 2006:10). Factors responsible for such change was no longer confined to the traditional organisational domain, and something more tangible than ‘environment’ was needed to plan for responses to change (Freeman, 2010:23). Freeman’s thesis is to “revitalize managerial capitalism by replacing the notion that managers have a duty to stockholders with the concept that managers bear a fiduciary relationship to stakeholders.” (Freeman, 2001:39).
The stakeholder concept
Carroll (1993:60, in Gibson, 2000:245) defines a stakeholder as “…any individual or group who can affect or is affected by the actions, decisions, policies, practices or goals of the organization”. Freeman (2001:41) defines them as “…groups and individuals who benefit from or are harmed by, and whose rights are violated or respected by, corporate actions”. With this definition he breaks the focus of management only for the benefit of the organisation’s shareholders. It also highlights the moral case for not only the inception but also the evolution of stakeholder theory, which Gibson (2000) confirms.
The concept includes all stakeholders including shareholders. This makes for a daunting array of stakeholder types because, as Stewart, Pollard and Sun (2010:5) indicate: “Although CSR can be defined normatively, the understanding of CSR is always dynamic, evolving and contextual, rather than homeostatic, mechanistic and context-free.”.
Stakeholder theory definition
A short definition of Stakeholder theory describes it as a theory of organizational management and of ethics with a centrality of morals and values that distinguishes it from other theories (Phillips, 2003). Important for this paper, stakeholder theory informed most definitions of CSR ever since.
While they will not all be discussed, it bears mention that stakeholder theory has been deconstructed into three main aspects or approaches: descriptive/empirical, instrumental, and normative (Donaldson & Preston, 1995:66). Furthermore, while these approaches differ significantly, they are mutually supportive, with the normative serving as the base underpinning for the theory in all its forms.
While the traditional view of the purpose of a business entity is to maximise return on investment for its shareholders (Friedman, 1970 in Gibson, 2000:245), stakeholder theory advocates that the interest of other stakeholders must also be considered (Gibson, 2000:245). The degree to which the interests of each of these two groups of stakeholders, shareholders on the one hand, and other stakeholders (internal and external) on the other, are considered, gives rise to a dichotomy that has kept scholars and practitioners busy since the mainstreaming of stakeholder theory in 1984. This inherent contradiction of interests also besets CSR and as will be discussed later leads to the pressing question: What drives CSR? Which of two opposing positions, profit or moral purpose?
These two interest groups, shareholders and other stakeholders, stand in contrast to each other in terms of their interests. These interests are business interest with profit as driver in the one camp and ethical drivers like social-environmental interests on the opposing side. Freeman (1994:402) was the first to mainstream this separation thesis. It was an important development in the field of business ethics (Wicks, 1996:89). Freeman (1994:410) argues that the conceptual framework within which the concepts of business and ethics are perceived, makes them categorically distinct. Wicks (1996:91-92), after sampling business and society literature confirms the prevalence of the separation view, and continues to point out the role management research plays in reinforcing it. Furthermore, he identifies three value dichotomies within the realm of this separation thesis, as “ways to think about business activity”. These three are: First, objectives of the firm, secondly, moral norms used to discuss organisational actions, and third, how we conceptualise the actions of humans in organisations (Wicks, 1996:90). Furthermore, his intention is not, as others have tried, to overcome these dichotomies, but to argue for an alternative way to ‘structure our enquiry’ in attempts to overcome the separation thesis.
Taking up the challenge and building on Freeman’s (1994) assertions about separation theory, which includes the acknowledgement that separating business and ethics constitutes a material undermining of the discipline of business ethics, Abela and Shea (2015:31) offer their alternative approach by agreeing with scholars that eliminating the separation thesis is either impossible, or ill-advised. They furthermore agree with previous scholars that the benefit of separation thesis lies in how it provides “…the usefulness of the positive/normative distinction’.
Abela and Shea’s thesis comes against a backdrop of attempts to refute separation theory that were not successful nor generally accepted (Abela and Shea, 2015:32-33). Furthermore they consider other attempts to integrate what the separation theory divides. Freeman’s (2008) ‘Integration thesis’ was amongst the first and Dienhart (2008, in Abela and Shea, 2015:33) follows Freeman with his ‘Identity thesis’. Donaldson (1994, in Abela and Shea, 2015:33) affirms the impossibility of merging the normative and the empirical at the level of fundamental theory, due to the fact/value dichotomy and “Hume Guillotine”. This, however, did not prevent others from trying.
Alzola’s ‘reconciliation project’, which is neither a separation nor an integration of the positive and the normative, nor a position in-between them, calls for ‘dialogue without hybridization’ (Alzola, 2011:32, in Abela and Shea, 2015:33). Furthermore, these authors propose avoiding the separation thesis while maintaining a positive/normative distinction. A different approach to achieving Alzola’s proposal will be discussed later in what will also be shown as the same conundrum besetting CSR.
Stakeholder theory has evolved from its initially corporate-centric perspective. Stakeholder theory has become so popular that: “…its current tendency is to impose itself as a point of reference by imitating corporate social responsibility policies, to such an extent that it has taken on the allures of a dominant discourse. This explains the proliferation of false arguments currently circulating on this subject.” (Pesqueux & Damak-Ayadi, 2005:5). This statement with its implicit warning points to stakeholder theory as a major influence in related fields like corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate citizenship (CC), and more recently responsible leadership (Boshoff, 2016:8).
While a concern for social responsibility starts as early as the 1930’s, the modern era of CSR starts in 1953 with the work of Howard R. Bowen (Carrol, 1999). The formalisation and mainstreaming of Freeman’s (1984) stakeholder theory effectively established the field of Business and Society (Katsoulakos & Katsoulakos, 2006:12). Furthermore, this theory, although newer than CSR, has heavily influenced the definitions of CSR since.
While “CSR has become indispensable in in modern business discourse.” there are many interpretations of what specifically it refers to (Okoye, 2009:613). The lack of a coherent definition for CSR has become a debate in itself (Sabadoz, 2011:77).
“Although CSR can be defined normatively, the understanding of CSR is always dynamic, evolving and contextual, rather than homeostatic, mechanistic and context-free. CSR at a time and in a society has its specific meanings subject to societal conditions, traditions, values, cultures and political forces. Thus, while CSR may have some converged principles across the world such as universal human rights, the practical perception of CSR is always embedded in societal context of place and time.” (Stewart, Pollard & Sun, 2010:5).
Three definitions are quoted below from Katsoulakos & Katsoulakos (2006:13) who selected them for their broad representativeness:
“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” – World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
“CSR means open and transparent business practices that are based on ethical values and respect for employees, communities and the environment” – CSR Forum.
“CSR and corporate sustainability represent the way companies achieve enhanced ethical standards and a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives addressing the concerns and expectations of their stakeholders” (Katsoulakos & Katsoulakos, 2006:13).
Only the last definition mentions the two opposing drivers largely responsible for the origination of CSR. Sabadoz (2015:77) points out an often overlooked aspect of the wide conceptualisation of CSR, namely that it ambivalently affirms both opposing drivers, profit-seeking and pro-sociality, which he argues is a necessary contradiction.
Virtue and Responsibility
In his seminal work ‘The Market for Virtue: The Potential and Limits of Corporate Social Responsibility’ David Vogel equates, or re-frames CSR to ‘business virtue’ from a perspective of “practices that improve the workplace and benefit society in ways that go above and beyond what companies are legally required to do.“ (Vogel, 2005:2). In this work he addresses all the questions posed for this paper, including the drivers of CSR and their impact. Directly after this definition, Vogel (2005:2) dips straight into the question of which of two agendas drives CSR. On the one hand the argument for virtue, voluntary responsible behaviour to ensure survival in a new stakeholder empowered world. On the other, CSR as merely a mask to hide corporate self-interest and a lack of regard for moral concerns. As altruistic as the first position sounds, the sustainability of CSR depends on it benefiting the organisation. Asking if the market for virtue in which the organisation must benefit exists, the answer is a qualified yes, since the market has limited demand and while valid, the business case for CSR has less influence than many of its proponents believe (Vogel, 2007:23).
Responsibility is a common theme in, and in some cases a construct for concepts like responsible leadership, sustainability, CSR and corporate citizenship. As with CSR, which is unclear about what constitutes responsible behaviour, it is also unclear what constitutes virtuous behaviour. In the context of Carroll’s (1979) four categories of corporate responsibilities, using organisational funds for philanthropic or ethical responsibilities may be seen as irresponsible in view of economic responsibilities towards shareholders. The same argument applies to responsible activities serving the so-called ‘triple bottom-line’ (Elkington, 1997): the corporation, the environment and society. Whether contextualised as virtuous behaviour or responsible behaviour, these engagements refer to the same thing, beset with the same self-contradictory implications. Similarly, while stakeholders are increasingly important sources of impact on the organisation, virtuous / responsible engagement with them does not automatically constitute the ‘responsible practice’ of corporate responsibility (Greenwood, 2007:315). Even at the level of strategic management and leadership earmarked for it by Freeman (2010:5), responsibility refers to responsibility towards both external stakeholders (Waldman & Galvin, 2008:328) and shareholders.
Neither virtue nor responsibility as concepts or activities affects or resolves the inherent profit versus moral/ethical contradiction in CSR.
In its broad and common definition, corporate citizenship (CC) encompasses the concepts of social responsibility, responsiveness and performance (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2006). A. Different approach states that corporate responsibility is commonly held to be “…generally comparable in the practical usage of the term ‘corporate citizenship’.” (Scherer and Palazzo 2008:62). McIntosh (2003:16) views Corporate citizenship as “…a progression from CSR comprising a fuller understanding of the role of business in society.” It is significant that Carroll (1998:5), who developed the first model of corporate responsibility, appears to agree since he reformulated the four responsibilities of his seminal Corporate Responsibility Pyramid as “the four faces of corporate citizenship”.
Many corporate citizenship initiatives have emerged in response to the 2008 financial crisis in particular and to other corporate scandals with environmental or societal impact. The UN Global Compact, The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000), are three examples. These and similar initiatives represent operationalisation of corporate citizenship complete with standards or codes and reporting formats (McIntosh, 2003).
The above discussion about CC serves to underscore not only the pervasive influence of CSR, but also that evolutions of CSR inherit the CSR separation thesis, and hence the same philosophical question about what motives drive them. This represents a dichotomy.
The online English Oxford living Dictionary (2017) defines dichotomy as follows: “NOUN; A division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.” Various ways to label the opposing concepts within some of the fields already discussed in this paper are tabled below.
|Business Drivers||Non-business Drivers||Model / Scholar|
|Profit||Moral purpose||Several; Freeman -1984|
|Economic responsibilities||Ethical and moral responsibilities||CSR Pyramid; Carroll -1979|
|Corporation||Environment & Society||Triple bottom-line; Elkington – 1999|
|Corporation||Environment & Society||Four faces of CC; Carroll -1998|
This section could also be titled ‘The Catch 22’, or ‘The Contradiction‘. Leading up to this point, all the theories, disciplines and key concepts addressed were beset with the separation thesis, and therefor subject to the philosophical question for this paper: Which of two opposing positions drives CSR, profit or moral purpose? While the answer in any given practical situation may in truth be either or both, there is a reason why this question is vitally important to an organisation: It has consequences.
Consequences of CSR initiatives may be large or small, impactful or negligible. The purpose of a CSR activity will determine what result or results were sought. However, as organisations have discovered, it is also possible to achieve a desired outcome on one level, but suffer other undesirable consequences on another level. By example, Van den Ven (2008:342) points out that the wrong motivation behind the marketing of CSR initiatives may have good consequences but will not be admired as virtuous conduct. Corporate virtue and its consequences can also be measured against other criteria. Investigating the marketing of CSR, Van de Ven (2008:343) developed a model using the five identity types framework devised by Balmer and Greyser (2003:1, in Van de Ven, 2008), that categorises numerous concepts from different disciplines, such as corporate identity, organisational identity, corporate reputation, corporate branding and corporate image, in order to relate them to each other meaningfully, so that this corporate identity model can determine if an firm is virtuous. Furthermore, Balmer and Greyser urge companies to manage their different identities to both build reputation capital, and avoid misalignments that may have harmful consequences.
The foregoing all affirms a simple principle; Doing CSR does not necessarily equate to benefit for the organisation, and it can cause harm, intended or not. The type of harm, how it manifests etcetera will be determined by the context of the incident.
While the above addresses the practical impact of the dichotomy, the philosophical contradiction is a moral/ethical issue.
Some responses to the separation thesis were discussed earlier (Alzola, 2011; Abela and Shea, 2015; Freeman, 2008). Other disciplines and concepts were then discussed to describe practical contexts of its manifestation. This author aligns with Sabadoz’s (2010:77-91) response to the challenge inherent to the separation thesis and its profit versus ethics dichotomy and I will treat his thesis here.
Like Abela and Shea (2015:31) Sabadoz aims to retain what they term a positive/normative distinction, or, ethics from observation, but does so in order to nurture a discursive environment, and unlike them does not seek to eliminate the separation thesis, but rather to utilise this characteristic of CSR as a supplement in two ways: CSR as a supplementary discourse and CSR as a supplement for Profit-seeking capitalism.
Sabadoz acknowledges the rise of prominence of CSR across all stakeholder groups specifically because it promises an alternative to the prevailing imbalances of our economic order and to support managers to better deal with the business-society interface. (Carroll, 1979; Cragg, 2000, in Sabadoz, 2011:77).
He then highlights two issues at the base of several conceptual concerns that plagues CSR in this expected role. The definition of CSR, and the related issue that CSR does not authoritatively resolve the conundrum of profit versus pro-sociality , as he terms the goal of corporate virtue.
The poor definition of CSR
Using Carroll’s 1979 four-tier categorisation of corporate responsibility as a basis, he argues the merits of Carroll’s approach as being inclusive of all issues in the CSR space. The cost of this broad conceptualisation however, he agrees with McWilliams and Siegel (in Sabadoz, 2001:78) is its inability to explain how corporate responsibilities and irresponsibility should be conceptualised or handled in specific situations. This ambiguity provides room for the misinterpretation of how various activities, like philanthropy, codes of conduct and even regulation relate to CSR. This ambiguity has lead some like Loir (in Sabadoz, 2001:77) to even question CSR as a concept, viewing it rather as a term encompassing disparate and non-normative theories.
The profit versus social expectation tension
As has been discussed in this paper, the problem of reconciling expectations of other stakeholders against those of shareholder demands for profit does not only exist, but is made harder by an ambiguous definition of CSR, specifically because it “…widens the scope of what may be variously considered either responsible or irresponsible corporate activity.” (Sabadoz, 2001:78). As mentioned previously, proponents for both poles exist, as well as those who propose any number of positions between the poles on the spectrum. The sub-set of studies indicating a positive relation between CSR and profit, while important, diverts attention from normative and practical questions about how to deal with situations where social and financial performance come into conflict. CSR’s inability to solve this conflict lies at the root of ongoing debates about the legitimacy of CSR.
Pertaining to CSR’s ambiguous definition, Sabadoz argues not for a solution to the debate, but firstly that CSR’s inherent ambiguity is what makes it useful as a normative discourse, and secondly that this should direct conceptual research into CSR. Pertaining to the profit versus pro-sociality tension, he argues for viewing the debate through Jacques Derrida’s philosophy because it can unfold the debate productively, by viewing CSR as a Derridean ‘supplement’. He defines this concept as “…a type of perpetually ambivalent discourse which assists other discourses that seem insufficient or troubled.” (Sabadoz, 2011:78). Furthermore, supplements achieve this by substituting for such troubled discourses and adding to them. This is in keeping with arguments by Wicks (1996:111) mentioned above that CSR affirms the validity of both sides of the CSR contradiction, profit-seeking and pro-sociality.
The point is that if Derrrida is correct that the meaning of concepts only exist in contested relation to one another, then it would be counter productive to seek to eliminate the separation thesis induced tension between its contradictions, because “…this ambiguity permits us to functionally supplement profit-seeking capitalism with CSR in the first place.” (Sabadoz, 2011:78). This is the ingenuity of CSR, it seeks to change capitalism by adding to it and substituting for it, while demanding pro-social attention within a capitalist frame. This ‘fruitful contradiction’ is why Sabadoz argues for the retention of the unresolved contradiction inherent in CSR.
The above defines two of Sabadoz’s three contributions; Firstly, viewing CSR through a Derridean lens to better understand it, second, retaining CSR’s definitional ambiguity. Thirdly, and as will be argued below, of importance to the discipline of communication management, he suggests more research on the concept of CSR as a discursive phenomena (Sabadoz, 2011:78).
“CSR expresses an important critical perspective which demands that firms act responsibly, while retaining the overall corporate frame of shareholder supremacy.” (Sabadoz, 2011:77) Furthermore CSR enables a normative discourse about how elements of society understand how organisations should act. Also, the discursive approach to CSR research that Sabadoz proposes should support CSR practitioners who must “act according to fluid standards of responsibility that cannot be authoritatively defined, but which can be better understood than they are at present.” (Sabadoz, 2011:77).
This section will consider an immediate application of Sabadoz’s (2011) contribution in the discipline relevant to this paper’s research article: communication management (and public relations (PR)). This suggested application of the argument for the use of a Derridean lens, transplanted to communication management as a leading functionary in corporate CSR should expand understanding of Sabadoz’s contribution beyond his stated intention.
Freitag (2008) by arguing for Public Relations to stake its claim as owner of shaping CSR policy, indirectly supports existing calls by others for PR/CM to be elevated by taking on a strategic role in the organisation. This section only considers this argument in view of the needs emerging in organisations with the rise to prominence and the pervasive influence of CSR.
Thanks initially to Freeman’s (2010) popularization of CSR as a strategic level consideration, but increasingly its influence on organisations on various levels, mainstreaming CSR is a real need in modern business. Berger, Cunningham, and Drumwright (2007:132-133) define ‘mainstreaming’ as embedding CSR into the day-to-day culture, processes and activities of the organisation. Furthermore, a mainstream activity will be seen as on an organisation’s agenda in a credible way and be reflected in policies and tools. This requirement supports Freitag’s (2008:37) call for shaping CSR policies.
This author supports Freitag’s call for PR to take this role, and agrees with one of his two arguments, while differing with the other. On the first account, Freitag cites Clark (2000, in Freitag, 2008:39) whose analysis of the parallels between CSR and PR processes, concerns and activities involved, especially in the arenas of stakeholder engagement. In brief Freitag views PR leaders as uniquely positioned to guide CSR.
This author differs from Freitag based on the findings of Sabadoz’s (2011) argument discussed in the previous section. Freitag agrees with Utting (in Freitag, 2008:40) that CSR is not yet mature enough to sufficiently address irresponsible behaviours and that this growth amounts to “…develop concrete measures of accountability applied universally.”.
It is because Sabadoz (2011) has articulated the value of CSR as an ambiguous and undefined concept, wherein lies its usefulness to expectations of those opposing profit over moral purpose, as well as its ability to provide a supplementary discourse, that this author disagrees with the call by Utting (in Freitag, 2008:40) for “…concrete measures of accountability applied universally.”. While I agree with a need for policy development in how CSR is approached by organisations, the reason for PR’s ideal position to lead such efforts lies principally in its ability and experience in engaging the “…perpetually ambivalent discourse which assists other discourses that seem insufficient or troubled.” (Sabadoz, 2011:78). In short, PR plays in the same often ambiguous and contradictory discursive space as CSR.
With an understanding and application of the Derridean lens, strategic PR will indeed be ideally positioned to support CSR practitioners who must “…act according to fluid standards of responsibility that cannot be authoritatively defined, but which can be better understood than they are at present.” (Sabadoz, 2011:77). This author recognises this contribution by Sabadoz and that it is an addition to existing arguments for Strategic PR role in organisations.
This paper sought to answer two questions. Firstly, ‘Is CSR enough to save the virtue of the organisation?’ It was shown that CSR plays a role in creating and nurturing organisational virtue. However, this role is often over-valued, and that CSR practices can also damage organisational virtue in various ways, often hard to predict or control. CSR therefore, in this author’s opinion, is not enough to save the virtue of the organisation. Various other management tools are required to help with this effort, and CSR can play a role to coordinate the strategy and activities involved.
Secondly, the question about whether profit or moral purpose drives CSR required an understanding of the nature and impact of two contradictory aspects of CSR commonly viewed as issues. Firstly, the ambiguous and incoherent definition of CSR, and secondly that of the separation thesis commonly agreed by scholars to impact CSR. The contradictory nature of this concept lies a the root of this second question. It was found that most scholars sought to eliminate this contradiction, but their proposals were not entirely accepted. Sabadoz (2011) however proposed that it be retained and used in support of CSR, firstly as a counterpoint, or supplement to the argument for profit as sole responsibility of the organisation, and hence driver of CSR, and secondly to provide the normative discourse with a frame and language for engagement.
It is this last point that makes his approach attractive to the communication management (PR) function in the organisation, which, as the Pretoria school of thought argues, should take a more strategic and influential role in support of the organisation. This author agrees with this and other scholarship that the communication management function is uniquely poised to drive or support strategic CSR.
I have shown how the tension between profit or moral purpose and the important question it raises about which one drives CSR is significant philosophically and in practice because the answer in a given contextual application of ‘business virtue’ has consequences that can be helpful or harmful to the organisation. In answering which of the opposing positions drive CSR, the answer in principle is both or either. Specific situations determine which is applicable.
In answer to the question about what drives CSR, this author believes it can be both or either, and that the intention of those involved in a specific situation will dictate the intended driver. The realities of business will however almost certainly expect some form of benefit for business, even if the proclaimed driver is stated as virtue.
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