Ethics in Action
Edited by Mats Jutterström and Peter Norberg
Issues relating to the responsibility and involvement of companies in society have long been a cause for debate. Individual events have served to ignite the public debate, such as the marketing of Nestlé breast-milk substitutes in Third World countries in the 1970s, the running aground of the Exxon Valdez and ensuing oil spill off the coast of Alaska at the end of the 1980s, and the working conditions of Nike subcontractors in the 1990s. Media attention on issues about the environment, human rights and labour conditions served not only to increase public pressure on companies to act responsibly; in the wake of the public debate, organizations were also formed, many of them non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which actively began to pressure companies to make changes. As a consequence of the trend described above, ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) has diffused widely. CSR can be described as a contemporary concept with a particular content, expressed in numerous sets of guidelines, principles, codes and so on. The CSR concept builds on a more fundamental and timeless issue: the role of business in society. The use of the CSR concept in companies has increased dramatically in the first decade of the 2000s. In 2007, for example, 97 per cent of the 150 largest companies in the European Union presented a CSR commitment on their website. The corresponding figure for Sweden’s 100 biggest companies was 75 per cent (Borglund et al. 2009). Large corporations in particular are expected to work with CSR, and most of them also claim that they do.
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