, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 123-136

Bringing Back the Essence of the “S” and “R” to CSR: Understanding the Limitations of the Merchant Trade and the White Man’s Burden

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Abstract

One of the fundamental struggles in corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the uncertainty and inherent contradictions that stem from a company being an individual legal entity and a community of persons. The authors contend that CSR has departed from the essence of “social responsibility.” The paper is a commentary on CSR, presented as two frameworks rooted in individualism—The Merchant Trade (the strategic view of CSR) and The White Man’s Burden (self-righteous CSR heroism that assumes the shackles of responsibility normally offered by others). Both, however, contradict the essence of “social responsibility” pitting individual against community, business against society, and economic needs and realities versus ethical reflection. The authors present a model that advocates a more moderate and realistic approach to CSR that goes back to the essence of social responsibility.