Bad guys playing good guys

12/01/2011 at 12:23 9 comentarios

Are companies who offer socially irresponsible or at least controversial goods or services allowed to say they have a CSR strategy?

Take Tobacco companies or Oil giants, often they claim that they are socially responsible or even sustainable. However, their core business is to offer products with so many adverse results that they eclipse all possible efforts.

I recommend you to take a look at the website of the Public Eye Awards, where the bad guys are exposed to public opinion.

What do you think? Take the poll and leave your comments!


Entry filed under: Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Three Kings of CSR CSR and the City – Part Two

9 comentarios Add your own

  • 1. elaine cohen  |  12/01/2011 en 13:01

    Hi Juan, I think you make a very interesting point which is often the subject of debate. I really had to stop and think before I answered your poll, though I came back to the perspective I have developed for some time now: If a business is legal, it must be able to develop its social responsibility approach. It’s all a question of degree – there is no perfect company and how do we decide what’s busineses are totally not socially responsible ? Tobacco may seem obvious, but there are highly far reaching negative impacts of many other businesses – alochol, fast food, gambling, weapons, chocolate, drugs, retailing, fashion etc – all of which impact our live positively and negatively and all companies have negative impacts as well as positive impacts. So while I realise that this response still leaves a question mark , I believe all legal corporations must be able to have a CSR strategy. The regulators and the public muct be the ones to decide whether it is any good.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Connor. David Connor said: RT @juanvillamayor: Bad guys playing good guys, or #CSR in controversial companies. Take the poll! […]

  • 3. Juan Villamayor  |  12/01/2011 en 13:21

    Hi Elaine,
    Yes, I am afraid there is no definite answer. You are right when you say that almost every activity has negative impacts. But what happens when a company’s (no matter how much turnover they make) core business causes so many deaths every year or so much environmental damage?
    Of course, there are several degrees of grey between black and white, and the answer to the question lies in the plans and efforts of the company to improve and become more sustainable and more socially responsible.
    Yes, all legal corporations must be allowed to have a CSR strategy, but we all know that CSR goes far beyond legal. It’s a tricky question, I know.
    For me, there has to be a will and a plan to improve in mid or long term
    By the way, even ice cream can have a negative impact if you eat too much of it!

  • 4. ricky alfred  |  12/01/2011 en 14:16

    Hi Juan
    This is as always a tough question to answer, but I have to come down on the side of companies having a right to develop their CSR strategies. As Elaine Cohen points out, if a company is operating legally, then it has that right.
    Depending on our own opinions, we may find certain products, and by association the company that produces them morally questionable. So removing the product from our thinking for a moment, any company must ensure that the way in which they ‘supply’ their ‘demand’ (how they do business) is the best that it can be – fulfilling those aspects of CSR that we all champion.
    The question surrounding harmful/morally questionable products and how the demand for them will be reduced, is one that will be answered by wider society, supported by legislation. As individuals we can champion those causes that we feel strongly about and hopefully we will see a fall in the demand of such products.
    It is a tough question though and one that we will continue to agonise over…

    • 5. Juan Villamayor  |  12/01/2011 en 15:49

      Hi Ricky
      It is indeed very difficult to answer to that question keeping a “cold head”, as we say in Spanish. For sure we have to help all kind of companies so that they can be more sustainable and more socially responsible. For certain industries it’s easy to say right away that they are morally questionable, the problem is the products and industries that lie in between. And even in each industry there are companies AND companies.
      Take the car industry, there is a difference between the producer of vehicles like the Hummer, and a company that invest and innovates in electric cars.

      • 6. ricky alfred  |  12/01/2011 en 16:12

        I totally agree on those companies that produce their goods in ‘acceptable’ industries; such as those pointed out by you and Elaine. That for me represents the challenge (and exciting possibilities) of the work that we do. Every company must aspire to do business in the best way possible, regardless of size, industry or product/service.

        On another topic – I like the expression “cold head”!

  • 7. Riccardo Wagner  |  12/01/2011 en 22:03

    Hi Juan, people smoke, because they want to, they eat more chocolate than they should, because they want to, (or, and that i admit is the tricky point, they dont know better) -What i am driving at is that we should all be very careful to judge what is good and what is bad –

    So i go with all the statements made here before – any legal business should be allowed to do this work in the best (means social, ecological etc.) way they can. And for heavens they dont even even need anybodys permission to do so – not even from us consultants 😉

    But what we should do is, to do our best to ensure, that these companies take csr as seriously as possible and that they deliver a real picture on all the facetes of their business and there impact in our society. and all that not only for the companys sake but for our whole csr-sector, because it will always be those examples of the bad guys csr, our critics, and there are a lot of them out there, will point to, measure and judge our work.

    Best Wishes from Cologne / Germany

    Riccardo Wagner

    lets connect.

    • 8. Juan Villamayor  |  13/01/2011 en 09:21

      Hi Riccardo,
      Wow this discussion is really very interesting, and also very tricky because it’s connected often with our values or what we think is right or wrong.
      Of course in an ideal world people are supposed to know what they do. And of course companies have the right to improve and communicate that improvement to society, that’s out of the question.
      But often what defines a company is not how they do things, but also “what” they do. I find that in many cases (especially in controversial sectors), csr is just a smoke curtain to hide what happens behind the scenes. You are right when you say we must ensure that CSR is taken seriously and not just used as greenwashing. It’s our duty!
      Grüss mir mal Köln! Ich war sehr oft da

  • […] January I published a poll where I asked whether companies in controversial sectors are entitled to have a strategy of […]



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Juan Villamayor

Consultor en Responsabilidad y Sostenibilidad Empresarial (RSE). Economista y MBA radicado en Barcelona, con un perfil eminentemente internacional.

Es posible generar más valor mientras se aplican principios éticos. Al final todos salen beneficiados: las empresas, la sociedad y el medio ambiente. Eso es lo que yo llamo "Negocios Con Sentido Común".

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