Article

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 109-120

First online:

Behind the Mask: Revealing the True Face of Corporate Citizenship

  • Dirk MattenAffiliated withInternational Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Nottingham University Business School
  • , Andrew CraneAffiliated withInternational Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Nottingham University Business School
  • , Wendy ChappleAffiliated withInternational Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Nottingham University Business School

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Abstract

This paper traces the development of corporate citizenship as a way of framing business and society relations, and critically examines the content of contemporary understandings of the term. These conventional views of corporate citizenship are argued to contribute little or nothing to existing notions of corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. The paper then proposes a new direction, which particularly exposes the element of "citizenship". Being a political concept, citizenship can only be reasonably understood from that theoretical angle. This suggests that citizenship consists of a bundle of rights conventionally granted and protected by governments of states. However, the more that governmental power and sovereignty have come under threat, the more that relevant political functions have gradually shifted towards the corporate sphere – and it is at this point where "corporate" involvement into "citizenship" becomes an issue. Consequently, "corporate citizens" are substantially more than fellow members of the same community who cosily rub shoulders with other fellow citizens while bravely respecting those other citizens' rights and living up to their own responsibility as corporations – as the conventional rhetoric wants us to believe. Behind this relatively innocuous mask then, the true face of corporate citizenship suggests that the corporate role in contemporary citizenship is far more profound, and ultimately in need of urgent reappraisal.

business and government corporate citizenship corporate social responsibility globalization human rights stakeholder theory