Should companies have a conscience? (Editorial, Feb. 25, 2002)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/23/2002

Often obscured by the violence of anti-globalization demonstrators are legitimate questions about how human rights and social values will fare in a new world economy. If nations are going to trade together on a level playing field doesn’t that require agreement on respecting workers’ rights and protecting the environment from industrial pollution? Or are more enlightened states to suffer a market disadvantage versus those that employ child labour, ignore human rights and operate without pollution controls or environmental safeguards.

All of this falls under the banner of corporate social responsibility — or CSR — a term we’re likely to hear more of in the coming years as the role of business in society is debated.

There is a philosophy that states corporations have no CSR obligations. They are responsible to shareholders and exist to make profit. The benefit to society is job creation.