Towards Social Accountability
Chapter 9: Environmentalism and social movement influences on corporate responsibility
Of the several social movements bursting from the 1960s cultural revolution, environmentalist/‘green’ campaigning has probably affected the ‘advanced’ societies more than any other; except perhaps for gender equality campaigns. ‘Environmentalism’ and its offshoots have changed corporate agendas in two ways. Firstly, by directly influencing how investments, operations, products and public relations are managed. Secondly, by setting templates for how corporations relate to civil society bodies. This chapter deals mainly with the second of those impacts, which has shaped practical concepts of ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’. As the previous chapter showed, a considerable body of opinion believes that these new arrangements constitute a plausible way in which corporations might be surrendering power and autonomy for a social re-integration of business. Many MNCs, mostly ‘Anglo-Saxon’ ones, now report on socio-environmental issues and consult with NGOs and campaigns in ways which began as responses to the environmental movement emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The extent and utility of this corporate responsiveness is debatable. But it has certainly formed some useful instituions for corporate responsibility policy makers. On issues such as pollution and community dereliction, businesses early on showed interest in cooperating with environmental campaigners and organisations (Marinetto 1998, pp._80–85). One survey, by Britain’s Business in the Community (BITC) organisation, found that by 1991, 75 per cent of firms rated environmental issues as topics of ‘active concern’ (Gillies 1992).
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