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CSR ‘Nothing To Do With Charity’ Debate

6 March 2013 at 11:39 am
Staff Reporter
The idea that Corporate Social Responsibility has ‘nothing to do with charity’ is being hotly debated in a live online forum hosted by the Economist Intelligence Unit based in the US.

Staff Reporter | 6 March 2013 at 11:39 am


CSR ‘Nothing To Do With Charity’ Debate
6 March 2013 at 11:39 am

The idea that Corporate Social Responsibility has ‘nothing to do with charity’ is being hotly debated in a live online forum hosted by the Economist Intelligence Unit based in the US.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the online debate presents a platform for provocative and thought-provoking discussions on the theme of the role of business in society.

The debate is running on the website over two weeks and users are invited to vote on the side they find most convincing and to provide their own comments and feedback.

A moderator from the Economist newspaper, Sarah Murray introduced the topic that CSR has nothing to with charity by saying that CSR means different things to different people.

“Many equate CSR initiatives with corporate philanthropy or community investment programmes. They would probably say CSR has everything to do with philanthropy. Semantics and acronyms aside, however, the real question is whether charity is part of being a responsible business,” Murray said.

“Do you think that companies should see charity as an important part of their social responsibilities? Or can they do more by leaving charity to others and pursuing responsible business practices?”

Managing Director at Accenture, Peter Lacy, responded as first speaker for the affirmative in the online debate.

“There was a time when corporate responsibility meant charitable giving. That is no longer the case. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may have found its origins in corporate philanthropy, but today it has the potential to create competitive advantage for companies and to bring great value to societies and, in some cases, at enormous scale,” he said.

According to Lacy, companies are now treating responsibility as a real business issue.

“Companies are integrating social responsibility into their business models to generate new revenue streams, reduce costs, improve their reputation and minimize risks,” he said.

“Corporate charity is in no way diminished by the new ways in which companies are conducting their business to broaden their definitions of value. But as companies look to improve the societies in which they operate, and their own business success, the scale of the benefits of responsible and sustainable business models mean that is undergoing a fledgling but powerful transformation.”

Arguing against the motion, Executive Director, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy Margaret Coady said that philanthropy alone cannot solve all the world’s problems—but not all the world’s problems can be solved without it, either.

“Charitable giving is a powerful and appropriate use of corporate resources and its idiosyncrasies are what make it essential,” she said.

“Critics of corporate philanthropy argue that companies should use their profit-making acumen to address pressing societal issues. Much talk now centres on the concept of “shared value”—the idea of solving a problem and making money at the same time. I am a proponent of this thinking, but it does not obviate the need for corporate philanthropy.

“Many societal issues relevant to business are simply not ripe for a market-based approach (can you really turn a profit on ending domestic violence?). No, in fact, shared value depends on philanthropy.”

The debate continues this week with more arguments and rebuttals scheduled.

You can contribute your comments on the site and decide which team you found the most convincing.


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One comment

  • robnlee says:

    It would be good to start a debate on the aspirations versus realities of the "Big Society" concept.  This could include Corporate Social Responsibility and Not-For-Profit concepts.  My view is that we are tending to polarise (for purely economic reasons) "community" on the one hand and "economics/jobs" on the other.  Our Australian (include States) Governments use the terms indiscriminately for personal political gain.  The debate NEEDS to have the politics taken out, so people can UNDERSTAND what Big Society, Big Business, Big Government, Big Charity, Big NFP etc is all about.

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