, Volume 110, Issue 4, pp 429-439
Date: 26 Sep 2012

A Moral Pluralist Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility: From Good to Controversial Practices

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Abstract

This study starts from the observation that there are relatively few controversial issues in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Given its strong normative background, CSR is rather an atypical discipline, especially in comparison with moral philosophy or applied ethics. Exploring the mainstream CSR agenda, this situation was echoed by widespread consensus on what was considered to be “good practice”: reducing pollution, shutting down sweatshops, discouraging tax evasion, and so on. However, interpretation of these issues through the lens of moral pluralism unveils latent controversies. The moral appraisal of good practices within CSR depends on key moral concepts (such as harm, responsibility, intention, and consequences), which have various—and often incompatible—interpretations. In a nutshell, this article argues that from a moral pluralist standpoint, all CSR topics are potentially controversial.