Questions often arise regarding a corporation's duty to society, with the related issue of a board of directors' responsibility in seeing that such duty is properly carried out. Many large (and not-so-large) companies have embraced a measure of responsibility for social needs, based in part on the premise that the corporation owes its existence to the state, or society, and consequently should be a good citizen. There's no question that companies must comply with applicable laws and regulations, but the issue is to what extent it is required to go beyond those mandates.
Corporate social responsibility typically begins with a focus on such things as economic, environmental, and social matters, and can extend to a wide range of corporate actions. Certainly a significant number of companies have long given attention to these matters, with an increase in recent years. There are different perspectives on the broad topic of corporate social responsibility—especially when comparing viewpoints in other parts of the world. Let's look at one subset that can be used to better understand what a company's and board's responsibilities are with regard to a broader societal role.
Many companies contribute to worthwhile charitable causes. Certainly this can be viewed as highly commendable. Betsy Atkins, with whom I shared the podium some years back and have from time to time since been in contact with, and whom I respect as an experienced and enlightened ...