On the falsity of much 'Corporate Social Responsibility'

The Ecologist - March 05, Editorial - on the falsity of much 'Corporate Social Responsibility' ..........


.........But that’s hypocritical nonsense. Governments do not operate from a position of neutrality. On the contrary, decades of very intensive lobbying, of infiltrating the regulatory process, of purchasing policy and supporting compliant politicians have reaped enormous benefits for big business. In the US, according to former president Bill Clinton’s labour secretary, ‘there’s no longer any countervailing power in Washington. Business is in complete control of the machinery of government. It’s payback time and every industry and trade association is busily cashing in’.

The regulatory system has been on overdrive for many years. Only it has adopted a dual purpose whereby the operations of big business have been globally deregulated and the operations of small businesses have been regulated to the point at which many cannot hope to survive. If you’re a large GM firm, the world is your laboratory, its inhabitants your guinea pigs. But a small firm selling vitamin supplements is subjected to a regulatory system that demands absolute adherence to the precautionary principle. It’s been said many times that you could render the biosphere non-viable without breaking a single law, but woe-betide you if you want to sell unpasteurised cider.

This isn’t free-market capitalism. The economy has been rigged. And not just through the regulatory system. Goods whose production may have caused untold ecological damage can be sold cheaply – because the economy fails to recognise the real value of the natural world and its resources. Pollution, illness, local economic collapse… These are merely ‘externalities’. But add them to the cost, as would necessarily happen in an unsubsidised economy, and the story is very different.

The economy is shaped and controlled by human decisions. We could just as easily make different decisions. We can demand through effective campaigns an economy in which the ‘externalities’ are internalised. We can demand fairness in the regulatory system. We can insist that corporate crimes are adequately punished.


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März 2005

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