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Corporate Social Responsibility as Business Strategy

Abstract

I argue that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), particularly the corporate code of conduct, has been one of global business’ preferred strategies for quelling popular discontent with corporate power. By “business strategy” I mean organized responses, through organizations like the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), to the threat public regulation poses to business’s collective self-interest. Attention to CSR’s historical development reveals it has flourished as discourse and practice at times when corporations became subject to intense public scrutiny. In this essay I outline two periods of corporate crisis, and account for the role codes have played in quieting public concern over increasing corporate power: 1) When developing countries along with Western unions and social activists were calling for a ‘New International Economic Order’ that would more tightly regulate the activity of Transnational Corporations (1960-1976); and 2) When mass anti-globalization demonstrations and high profile corporate scandals are increasing the demand for regulation (1998-Present).

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