Debates, Models and Practices Across Government, Law and Business
* 1 During my career of 37 years in government service followed by 10 years as a nonexecutive director of two international companies, I have seen the separate strands of corporate social responsibility grow and weave themselves into the wide-ranging concept which we have today. My time in government saw the ever-growing emphasis on individual rights, reflected not only in the human rights movement but in the attention given to equal opportunity for people of different genders, social classes and ethnic origins; to protection of consumers and stakeholders; to provision for the handicapped and disabled; and to care for the environment. It is, however, only recently that these behavioural norms, as they affect corporate behaviour, have welded together in the concept of corporate social responsibility. If a businessperson had been asked only 20 years ago what was his or her concept of corporate social responsibility, the answer would probably have been no more than the obligation to act ethically, to obey the law and to devote some of the company’s surplus wealth to charitable causes. Now these obligations and much more have come together in the concept of corporate social responsibility. Why has this happened? One reason is no doubt the growth of mega-corporations and their importance in citizens’ lives. Another is the increasing internationalisation of these corporations so that it is beyond the power of any single country to control them (except, to some extent, the United States through the power of its extra-territorial legislation on companies which have activities...