Table of Contents

Handbook of Economics and Ethics

Handbook of Economics and Ethics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren

The Handbook of Economics and Ethics portrays an understanding of economic methodology in which facts and values, though distinct, are closely interconnected in a variety of ways. From theory building to data collection, and from modelling to policy evaluation, this encyclopaedic Handbook is at the intersection of economics and ethics.

Chapter 10: Corporate Social Responsibility

Rhys Jenkins

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, history of economic thought


Rhys Jenkins What is corporate social responsibility? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is defined in a variety of ways. Meanings differ across authors and organizations and have evolved over time. One of the leading corporate organizations advocating CSR, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD 2002), has defined it as ‘the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable economic development, working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life’ (quoted in Blowfield and Frynas 2005, p. 501). As this definition illustrates, CSR is often linked to the concept of sustainable development, which includes the social and environmental as well as the economic impacts of business. It also emphasizes the role of a broader range of stakeholders rather than seeing firms as accountable solely to their shareholders. Many definitions explicitly mention the voluntary nature of CSR and emphasize that it involves going beyond compliance with legal obligations. The philanthropic activities of companies are also often viewed as part of CSR, although this is more debatable. What is novel about CSR in recent years is that it affects (or claims to affect) companies’ core activities. In other words it is ‘pre-profit’ in the sense that it has the potential to affect the profits that companies make (positively or negatively) as opposed to ‘post-profit’, that is, affecting the distribution of profit after it has been earned. Charitable donations by companies fall into the latter category and should be distinguished from changes in the ways...

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