corporate_responsibility - 261 The (Not So) New Corporate...

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261 The (Not So) New Corporate Social Responsibility: An Empirical Perspective Paul R. Portney Introduction It is virtually impossible to open the business section of the New York Times , the Wall Street Journal, The Economist , or any business publication today without seeing mention of measures being taken by some company to become more “socially responsible.” Although such measures can take many forms, generally they entail voluntary actions by Frms to reduce their energy consumption and/or discharges of air, water or other forms of pollution; make their products safer or healthier; improve working conditions for their employees, either at home or abroad; or contribute in some way, either Fnancially or in-kind, to the communities in which their facilities are located. In some cases, of course, companies may engage in outright philanthropy at the national or even international level, as when airfreight companies made planes available at no charge to airlift emergency supplies to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, or when pharmaceutical companies supplied free or below-cost drugs to AIDS victims in Africa. Merely citing such examples is a reminder of just how often we see stories about corporate social responsibility (CSR). The word “voluntary” in the previous paragraph is important. This is because we can’t have a serious discussion about CSR unless we focus on the things companies do that go beyond what is required under prevailing laws and regulations. To be sure, as economists from Adam Smith to Milton ±riedman have pointed out, even companies that do nothing more than observe all the rules still do extraordinarily useful things by providing the goods and services their customers want while at the same time creating jobs for their employees and outlets for personal savings. But if CSR is to mean anything at all, it ought to be reserved for those activities that go beyond legal requirements. ±or this reason, I have previously deFned CSR to mean “a consistent pattern, at the very least, of private Frms doing more than they are required to do under applicable laws and regulations governing the environment, worker safety and health, and investments in the communities in which they operate” (Portney 2005). 1 With the beneFt of hindsight, I would have added to this deFnition efforts by companies to make their products safer than required Eller College of Management, University of Arizona. ±or their very helpful comments on a previous version, I thank Chris Portney, Robert Stavins, Suzy Leonard, and an anonymous referee. 1 This article draws heavily on the earlier one, though it also updates and extends it in several respects. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy , volume 2, issue 2, summer 2008, pp. 261–275 doi:10.1093/reep/ren003 Advance Access publication on July 11, 2008 C ° The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. All rights reserved. ±or permissions, please email:
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corporate_responsibility - 261 The (Not So) New Corporate...

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