New Paths to Corporate Social Responsibility

by Barry Richman



This article is based on a recent conference entitled "The Corporation and the Quality of Life," organized by the author, sociologists Neil Jacoby, and Gary Cadenhead at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, where a group of forty distinguished people from diverse backgrounds and professions, and with diverse social ideologies spent a week of intensive discussion. Some conference highlights are discussed in the article, but the primary focus is on the author's own analysis, personal opinions, and ideas. There appear to be three primary and interrelated forces that bring about greater and more effective corporate social involvement, corporate initiative; the role of government and the political process; and other forms of countervailing power, pressure, and encouragement. The overall social responsibilities assumed by the corporate sector are not in proportion with the overall social power that it exerts, and especially with what is now expected by American society generally. Unless a considerably better balance in the equation is achieved through greater corporate initiative, private enterprise stands a good chance of losing much of its existing social and possibly economic power. It will, in any event, lose more of its autonomy through greater government control and other means.

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