, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 165-175

Taboos in Corporate Social Responsibility Discourse

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Abstract

Corporations today have been engineered by CEOs and other business advocates to look increasingly green and responsible. However, alarming cases such as Enron, Parmalat and Worldcom bear witness that a belief in corporate goodness is still nothing other than naïve. Although many scholars seemingly recognize this, they still avoid touching on the most sensitive and problematic issues, the taboos. As a consequence, discussion of important though problematic topics is often stifled. The article identifies three ‘grand’ taboos of CSR discourse and explicitly raises them for discussion. They are the taboos of amoral business, continuous economic growth, and the political nature of CSR. It is suggested that CSR can only be as advanced as its taboos. The critical potential of the field remains underdeveloped as a consequence of the taboos, and in many cases the CSR discourse merely produces alluring but empty rhetoric about sustainability and responsible business.