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Are corporations who contribute to philanthropy socially responsible?

January 15, 2007


If a corporation contributes $7 million to philanthropy, supports the local ballet and pitches in to clean up neighborhood parks, is it socially responsible?

Not Necessarily.

Georges Enderle says that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) requires companies to do much more than fund charities and maintain minimum government environmental regulations, adding that real CSR requires companies to be moral in all interactions. Enderle is the Arthur and Mary O’Neil Professor of International Business Ethics and fellow of the Kellogg Institute and Nanovic institute for European Studies.

“In one sense, Enron was socially responsible,” says Enderle. “They gave a lot of money to the arts and sports events in Houston, but they cheated and committed many crimes. Therefore, if people mean that corporate social responsibility is only giving money away for philanthropic purposes which allow them to cheat in their core business activities, they have an underdeveloped understanding of responsibility that doesn’t make sense at all.

“Business ethics relates to all activities of business and the rules that guide business…the ethics of competition, (ethics) of innovation, (ethics of) finance, (ethics of) marketing, etc. All are important aspects of corporate responsibility.”

Georges Enderle, co-founder of the European Business Ethics Network and former President of the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics, has conducted several seminars on business ethics for companies such as Ciba-Geigy and BMW. He has authored and edited 18 books and more than 100 articles. Professor Enderle also researches and teaches in China, particularly at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai (1996-2003). He co-chaired the World Congress of Business, Economics, and Ethics 2000 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the subsequent Congress 2004 in Melbourne, Australia.

To learn more about Professor Georges Enderle’s research and writings, visit his website at business.nd.edu/georgesenderle.