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Corporate Social irrisponsibility Reading

Corporate Social irrisponsibility Reading - English 101...

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aaron chatterji is an assistant professor of management at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and a fellow at the Center for American Progress. siona listokin is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. A fter years spent fruitlessly attempt- ing to organize Wal-Mart, unions and other liberal activist groups have taken a new tack: a public campaign to force the Bentonville behemoth to become more socially responsible. In 2005, Andrew Stern, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), created Wal-Mart Watch, with an an- nual budget of $5 million, devoted exclusively to making Wal-Mart “a better employer, neighbor, and corporate citizen.” At almost the exact same time, a parallel group called Wake Up Wal-Mart launched, with much the same goal. In the nearly two years since, both Wal-Mart and its new opponents have spent millions dueling in the public and legislative spheres. The labor-backed groups have managed to stop Wal-Mart from opening stores in a number of communities and won isolated victories in court to force the company to Corporate Social Irresponsibility Progressives need to end their fixation with corporate social responsibility—and focus on reform that actually works. aaron chatterji & siona listokin 52 ± winter 2007
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democracyjournal.org ± 53 increase benefit expenditures. Yet they have not fundamentally altered Wal- Mart’s behavior: Its wages are unchanged, its benefits are still restrictive, and its workers are still non-unionized. All of which raises an important question: Can progressives really change Wal-Mart—or any other company, for that matter? And if they can, at what cost? A generation of activists has been raised on the idea of corporate social re- sponsibility (CSR)—that large corporations can be cajoled into paying employ- ees better, being more environmentally responsible, improving labor conditions in developing countries, retaining more American workers, embracing diversity, and donating money to fix inner-city schools. Where firms cannot be enticed, the strategy goes, they can be bullied. In the late 1970s, Nestlé learned this first-hand when a massive boycott was launched to protest its overly aggres- sive marketing of infant formula. In 1999, a series of protests convinced Home Depot to sell more lumber from sustainable logging operations. More recently, campaigns against the fast-food industry have included a full barrage of boy- cotts, lawsuits, movies, and books to pressure companies like McDonald’s and Wendy’s to stop advertising to children and to serve healthier food. In pursuit of similar success, enormous resources have been directed away from lobbying for regulatory regimes and toward recruiting powerful corpora- tions into voluntary battle against a variety of injustices. Yet CSR campaigns have had limited success in actually changing corporate behavior in a meaningful way.
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