CSR: Doing Good vs Making Money

CSR-Dilemma.gifRichard Edelman took to his blog to respond to a Wall Street Journal article published last week titled “The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility.”

In the article, Aneel Karnani, associate professor of strategy at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, says that companies are primarily concerned with the bottom line. And even when they do good, it’s just a fortunate by-product of making money.

“The movement for corporate social responsibility is in direct opposition, in such cases, to the movement for better corporate governance, which demands that managers fulfill their fiduciary duty to act in the shareholders’ interest or be relieved of their responsibilities,” Karnani’s article reads.

Edelman CEO, Richard Edelman, in his blog post “Voodoo Academia” says he hopes this article won’t inspire PR pros to “stand fast against the siren song of the stakeholder society.” After speaking with a few experts, including Matthew Bishop, author and USA editor at The Economist, he comes to the following conclusion: “The role of the PR person is to advocate for a stakeholder approach, to engage with non-traditional partners (such as NGOs) and to enable solutions that serve private and public interests.”

For Karnani, profit as a motivating factor taints the good that comes out of these programs. Government regulation is key. In Edelman’s column, the good is coupled with customer engagement, which is what PR pros specialize in. And engagement is good business.

The consumer wants to know that they are somehow helping to solve a problem. If they can do that by being more selective with where they spend their money, you won’t hear any argument from them.

[Image via Social Yell]