Friday, June 29, 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility

I was privileged to attend a conference on corporate social responsibility at Baruch College on Thursday. We heard from a number of corporations about what they are doing to be responsible in dealing with the environment or their workplace or with specific global problems like diabetes. My own contribution to the proceedings was a paper on "What Form of CSR Is Best for You?" in which I answer the question by looking at what happened in three companies - Tiffany, Gap Inc. and Chiquita - and three countries (Turkey, Italy and Pakistan).

The basic message of the paper is that CSR requires some kind of engine, some navigators and wheels on which to roll. It also operates within local economic and political constraints and that governments can affect the speed with which CSR is adopted. Turkey is faced with lower-cost competition and its government is not helping to solve the problem by weighting its tax mix toward payroll taxes rather than property taxes. Italy and, more recently, Pakistan have been encouraging local factories to become certified against SA8000 workplace standards by paying some of the costs of certification or giving certified factories preference in government procurement, or both.