Chapter 2: Corporate social responsibility: beyond the business case to human rights
Much of the debate about corporate social responsibility (CSR) focuses on the ‘business case’, according to which CSR is morally permissible, or required, if and only if, and only to the extent that, it benefits the corporation in question (Cragg, 2004, pp. 123–6). The business case stimulates extensive research on the empirical question as to what extent and in what circumstances meeting CSR expectations does in fact promote or protect the interests of a corporation (Orlitsky, 2003; Schreck, 2009; Vogel, 2005). In contrast, this chapter addresses the normative question as to whether and when the responsibilities of corporations ought to go beyond the business case and, if so, how the boundaries of such ‘altruistic’ responsibilities could be drawn in a morally acceptable and economically prudent manner. It is argued that the CSR (as defined in this chapter) that goes beyond the business case is best approached in terms of human rights justifications. The suggestion is that requiring CSR beyond the business case is morally justified and a candidate for legal enforcement only if, and only to the extent that, it is for the protection or furtherance of the human rights of those affected. This is explored primarily in relation to those specific human rights violations by corporations that arise in the course of their business activities, but also applies both to corporate complicity with the human rights violations of states and to corporate responsibilities to assist or undertake state responsibilities with respect to protecting human rights violations by third parties.
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