The strong voice of the CSR community

Aug 30, 2010 1:40 PM ET

It is now exactly 7 days ago that a storm in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) world broke out over an article by Aneel Karnani published in the Wall Street Journal titled: ”The case against Corporate Social Responsibility”.

In the article he argued that the idea of companies having a duty to address social ills is not just flawed but that it also makes it more likely that we’ll ignore the real solutions to these problems.

All week last week the reactions to this article from around the CSR community flooded in. People tweeted on Twitter, shared on Facebook and emailed from one practitioner to the the other arguing for and against this point of view. Some reactions where in support of Mr Karnani but the majority where criticizing the simplicity of his argument and absolutely disagreed with his assessment that CSR in itself as a business principle was flawed.

This is a list of some of the reactions by authors and websites:

I do not want to go into detail what my view on this article is but if you have read my blog for a while you will know that I am all for CSR as a business concept and that in my view no organization now and in the future can allow itself to not take some aspects of CSR in account in order to make more money and take up its role as a responsible business in our society.

In any case. For me this strong reaction by the CSR community showed a lot more then the passion of some individuals.

My interpretation of this reaction from the CSR community to this article

Over the past few years a lot of people in the CSR community have been become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress within global organizations to continue to implement a more material and meaningful CSR programs and practices within their business. At the same time more and more so called “business experts” started to make their voice heard and strongly criticized the whole purpose of CSR and its value for business. Common arguments include the lack of focus on the business case (ie. whether it makes the individual business more money embracing CSR) and the time is not right to lay further constraints on business growth (especially during an global economic downturn) by increasing its overhead costs and pulling vital budgets away to further strengthen CSR practices within a business.

The CSR Community is ready to face its critics: Last weeks reactions to the WSJ article showed that the CSR community is ready to face its critics and argue its way to increased recognition. It showed that there are many people out there that are willing to stand up and argue in favor of CSR, highlight the best practice and usefulness for the individual business and business as a whole across the globe.

Social Media and CSR is a winning combination: It has furthermore become very clear that social media as a tool is vital for the future of CSR. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are and will continue to be the three cornerstones of the next phase of CSR in terms of communication and collaboration. The more people join in to share their ideas, examples and experiences to make CSR the business norm, the more we will be able to convince business across the globe that CSR is not just a business fashion but that it is able to adapt and change to include the latest trends and best practice as well. Adapting in a way that CSR is providing a voice to all diverse stakeholders opinions and that organizations which are willing and able to listen to these voices will hugely benefit from this in the short in long term.

For me as a member of the CSR community, this last week was a very encouraging week.

What was your view on the discussion and reactions of people to the WSJ article? I would love to hear your viewpoint.

More posts on the topics of Sustainability and CSR can be found on my blog:


Fabian Pattberg