Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Philanthropy is Not CSR: Strange op-ed piece at the FT on the decline of corporate social responsibility. Christopher Haskins, a former chairman of Northern Foods, seems to be conflating CSR with corporate philanthropy, or perhaps community relations, when he bemoans the fact that 21st century companies—unlike the 19th century businesses he holds up as exemplars—no longer support their local communities the way they once did.

This leads to the bizarre contention that companies in the U.K. lag the U.S. in terms of CSR. American companies do indeed give more to charities than their British counterparts, but that doesn’t make them more responsible. Indeed, I suspect many American companies use their giving as an excuse not to do all the things that really constitute responsible behavior: progressive workplace policies, environmental protection, purchasing at fair prices from suppliers in developing countries, providing equal opportunities to women and minorities.

The fact that both ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart have robust corporate philanthropy programs does not make them any more responsible.

Moreover, Haskins seems to view even philanthropy in parochial terms. He praises Boeing (no irresponsible behavior there in recent years) for its commitment to its local community, but global companies are not—and should not be—focused on their home towns. Their responsibility is to the world, and that should be reflected in their giving policies and, of course, their behavior.

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