Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 165–175

Taboos in Corporate Social Responsibility Discourse

Article
  • 768 Downloads

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.

Keywords

taboo CSR corporate greening growth politics amoral 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Anand V., Ashforth B. E., Joshi M. (2004) Business as Usual: The Acceptance and Perpetuation of Corruption in Organizations. Academy of Management Executive 18(2):39–53Google Scholar
  2. Ayres R. U., van den Bergh J. C. J. M., Gowdy J. M. (2001) Strong versus Weak Sustainability: Economics, Natural Sciences, and “Consilience”. Environmental Ethics 23(2):155–168Google Scholar
  3. Banerjee S. B., Linstead S. (2001) Globalization, Multiculturalism and Other Fictions: Colonialism for the New Millennium?. Organization 8(4):683–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barlett A., Preston D. (2000) Can Ethical Behaviour Really Exist in Business?. Journal of Business Ethics 23(2):199–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berger P. L., Luckmann T. (1966) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sosiology of Knowledge. Penguin Books, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  6. Boulding K. E. (1966) The Economics of The Coming Spaceship Earth. In: Jarrett H. (ed) Environmental Quality in a Growing Economy. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp. 3–15Google Scholar
  7. Browne R. B. (ed). (1984a) Forbidden Fruits: Taboos and Tabooism in Culture. Bowling Green University Popular Press, OhioGoogle Scholar
  8. Browne R. B. (1984b) Introduction: Don’t Touch, Don’t Do, Don’t Question – Don’t Progress. In: Browne R. B. (ed) Forbidden Fruits: Taboos and Tabooism in Culture. Bowling Green University Popular Press, Ohio, pp. 1–6Google Scholar
  9. Buchanan L. (2005) A Taboo on Taboos. Harvard Business Review 83(2):42–43Google Scholar
  10. Carter P., Jackson N. (2004) For the Sake of Argument: Towards an Understanding of Rhetoric as Process. Journal of Management Studies 41(3):469–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlson R. (1962) Silent Spring. Fawcett Publications, Greenwich, CTGoogle Scholar
  12. Catasús B., Lundgren M., Rynnel H. (1997) Environmental Managers’ Views on Environmental Work in a Business Context. Business Strategy and the Environment 6(4):197–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crane A. (1999) Are You Ethical? Please Tick Yes ? Or No ? On Researching Ethics in Business Organizations. Journal of Business Ethics 20(3):237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crane A. (2000) Corporate Greening as Amoralization. Organization Studies 21(4):673–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crook, C.: 2005, ‘The Good Company’, Economist (January 22nd), 3–4.Google Scholar
  16. Deakin S., Konzelmann S. (2003) After Enron: an Age of Enlightenment. Organization 10(3):583–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De George R. T. (1999) Business Ethics. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  18. Dolan E. G. (1976) Austrian Economics as Extraordinary Science. In: Dolan E. G. (ed) The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics. Sheed & Ward, Kansas City, pp. 3–15Google Scholar
  19. Eden S. (1999) ‘We Have the Facts’ – How Business Claims Legitimacy in the Environmental Debate. Environment and Planning A 31(7):1295–1309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fineman S. (2001) Fashioning the Environment. Organization 8(1):17–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Friedman M. (1962) Capitalism and Freedom. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  22. Geghmann U. (2003) Modern Myths. Culture and Organization 9(2):105–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gini A. (2004) Business, Ethics, and Leadership in a Post Enron Era. The Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies 11(1):9–15Google Scholar
  24. Hamilton C. (2004) Growth fetish. Pluto Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Handy C. (2002) What’s a Business For?. Harvard Business Review 80(12):49–55Google Scholar
  26. Heiland C. R., Daniels J. P., Shane H. M., Wall J. L. (1984) The Ethical Imperative: Myth or Reality. Journal of Business Ethics 3(2):119–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoffman A. J. (2001) From Heresy to Dogma. An Institutional History of Corporate Environmentalism. Standford Business Books, StandfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Huber P. (1999) Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists: a Conservative Manifesto. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Khera I. P. (2001) Business Ethics East vs. West: Myths and Realities. Journal of Business Ethics 30(1):29–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Korten D. C. (1995) When Corporations Rule the World. Kumarian Press and Berrett-Koehler, USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Lee D. R., McKenzie R. B. (1994) Corporate Failure as a Means to Corporate Responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics 13(12):969–978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Levy D. L. (1997) Environmental Management as Political Sustainability. Organization & Environment 10(2):126–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lomborg B. (2001) The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Meadows D. H., Meadows D. L., Randers J., Behrens W. W. III (1972) The Limits to Growth. Compton Printing Limited, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Mellema G. (2003) Responsibility, Taint, and Ethical Distance in Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 47(2):124–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Michelson G. (2002) Taboo in Management and Organizational Research: Towards a Theoretical Framework. Management Research News 25(8–10):140–142Google Scholar
  37. Michelson G. (2005) A Taboo on Taboos. Harvard Business Review 83(6):145Google Scholar
  38. McCloskey D. N. (1983) The Rhetoric of Economics. Journal of Economic Literature 21(2):481–517Google Scholar
  39. Parker M. (2003) Introduction: Ethics, Politics and Organizing. Organization 10(2):187–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Piker A. (2002) Ethical Immunity in Business: A Response to Two Arguments. Journal of Business Ethics 36(4):337–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Porter M.!E. (1991) America’s Green Strategy. Scientific American 268(4):168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts J. (2003) The Manufacture of Corporate Social Responsibility: Constructing Corporate Sensibility. Organization 10(2):249–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schot J., Fisher K. (1993) Introduction, The Greening of the Industrial Firm. In: Fisher K., Schot J. (eds) Environmental Strategies for Industry. Island Press, Washington D.C., pp. 3–33Google Scholar
  44. Shrivastava P. (1994) CASTRATED Environment: GREENING Organizational Studies. Organization Studies 15(5):705–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sims R. R., Brinkmann J. (2003) Enron Ethics (or: Culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics 45(3):243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Soros G. (1998) The Crisis of Global Capitalism, Open Society Endangered. Little, Brown and Company, LondonGoogle Scholar
  47. Stead E. W., Stead J. G. (1994) Can Humankind Change the Economic Myth? Paradigm Shifts Necessary for Ecologically Sustainable Business. Journal of Organizational Change Management 7(4):15–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sudhir V., Murthy P.!N. (2001) Ethical Challenge to Businesses: The Deeper Meaning. Journal of Business Ethics 30(2):197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tamminen R. (1992) Yrityksen yhteiskunnallinen vastuu. Liiketaloudellinen aikakauskirja 41(4):377–389Google Scholar
  50. Treviño L. K., Brown M. E. (2004) Managing to be Ethical: Debunking Five Business Ethics Myths. Academy of Management Executive 18(2):69–81Google Scholar
  51. WCED (1987) Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  52. Webster H. (1942) Taboo: A Sociological Study. Stanford University Press, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  53. Welford R. (ed) (1997) Hijacking Environmentalism, Corporate Responses to Sustainable Development. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  54. Werhane P. H., Freeman E. R. (1999) Business Ethics: the State of the Art. International Journal of Management Reviews 1(1):1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. WWF: 2004, Living Planet Report 2004 (Retrieved November 10, 2004, from http://www.wwf.fi/www/uploads/pdf/living_planet_report2004.pdf).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pori UnitTurku School of EconomicsPoriFinland

Personalised recommendations