Chapter 1: Stepping down rather than up: the ethical option for business in our troubling times
Full access

Corporate social responsibility suggests that businesses should be doing more to enact their obligations within society, an idea encapsulated by Tim Cook’s assertion that it is time for business to ‘step up’ and take responsibilities that governments are no longer able to cope with efficiently. This chapter argues a contrary view: rather than stepping up, the most appropriate ethical response for business in our troubling times is to ‘step down’. It critiques the notion of stepping up itself and links it to three critical issues we currently face: the growing disparity in wealth, global climate change and the rise of populism. Rather than assuming the primary role afforded to business by capitalist-based economic models and contemporary neoliberal ideology, in order to act ethically a first move for business would be to take its place amidst a range of other voices with equal rights. Such a reorientation could result in businesses taking care to fulfil their basic civic responsibility of paying tax, assuming an obligation to do no harm to the communities in which they are situated and the environment from which they draw natural resources, and enacting organizational practices that would allow employees to enjoy a balanced lifestyle in which they have time for personal, family and community engagement.

Monograph Book