Ethics in Action
Edited by Mats Jutterström and Peter Norberg
Chapter 9: CSR as a practice: conflicting principles – a practical dilemma
Ethics in Action
What do companies do when they practise CSR? It is this very empirical question that stands in the spotlight in this chapter. We present a study of a project that the company in question presented and publicly highlighted as an example of CSR in practice: an electrification project that Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), a multi- national company, carried out in a village in rural Tanzania. Before reporting on the study and drawing conclusions, we begin by describing the backdrop to the project studied, and presenting our theoretical starting points and research method. From the 1990s onward, many large multinational corporations have invested more and more intensively even in the poorest countries (Prahalad and Hart 2002; London and Hart 2004). Examples with a Swedish connection include investments made by Ericsson, ABB and Tetra Pak in East Africa. If we are to believe Prahalad and others, this type of investment has to do with the fact that approximately four billion people live in these low-income markets that large corporations had until recently not been able to reach. It is also in those countries that they foresee a significant growth in population. Companies seeking to increase sales volumes and profits are thus wise to establish themselves in such markets. A further explanation for the rather sudden concentration on low- income markets can be found in the stagnation experienced by many multinational corporations beginning in the late 1990s. One report from the non-profit organization Swedwatch (Wingborg 2009) presents the results from a review of the business activities of three Swedish companies with respect to human rights, focusing on conditions for factory workers in ‘developing’ countries.
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