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Emergent by Stephen Scott Johnson

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Chapter 5 Corporate social responsibility is dead

ACCORDING TO A 2015 ARTICLE FROM the London Business School, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has ‘failed both companies and society because initiatives are almost always detached from organisations’ core commercial activities’. Look at the Volkswagen emissions scandal and their admission of a ‘defeat device’ in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. In the wake of this admission, an incident of global magnitude erupted that saw a CEO resign and the delicate ‘reservoir of trust’ between company and society shatter. And this kind of incident is not unique. In recent times, the world has witnessed an increase in ‘naming and shaming’ of iconic brands, and exposure of scandalous trade practices.

CSR has become a global industry. Most companies employ CSR managers, vice presidents and experts; armies of CSR consultants are on offer and hundreds of CSR awards are distributed every year. Yet, at the heart of any company scandal is often failed CSR. The problem with CSR is far-reaching and not restricted to any one industry, with most companies’ well-meaning attempts to add value by investing into the lives and communities where they operate falling short of the positive impact they set out to create.

This failure shines a spotlight on the inefficacy of shared value as a sustainable model for reputation, engagement and long-term growth. It proves that ...

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