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Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility in Controversial Industry Sectors: The Social Value of Harm Minimisation

  • Margaret Lindorff

    ()

  • Elizabeth Prior Jonson

    ()

  • Linda McGuire

    ()

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    This paper examines how it is possible for firms in controversial sectors, which are often marked by social taboos and moral debates, to act in socially responsible ways, and whether a firm can be socially responsible if it produces products harmful to society or individuals. It contends that a utilitarian justification can be used to support the legal and regulated provision of goods and services in these areas, and the regulated and legal provision of these areas produces less harm than the real alternative—illegal and unregulated supply. Utilitarianism is concerned as much with harm minimisation as good maximisation, and both are equally important when it comes to maximising welfare (Bentham 1789, 1970 ; Mill [1863] 1964 ). Any adequate theory of CSR must, therefore, have the capacity to handle a business that minimises harm as well as those that more straightforwardly maximise good. In this paper we therefore attempt two tasks. First, we argue that the legal but regulated provision of products and services may be better from an overall utilitarian perspective than a situation in which these harmful or immoral goods and services are illegal but procurable via a black market. Porter and Kramer’s ( 2006 ) strategic CSR framework is then presented to describe how firms in these controversial sectors can act in socially responsible ways. This model highlights the importance of firm strategy in selecting areas of socially responsible behaviours that can be acted upon by firms in each industry. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-012-1493-1
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 110 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 457-467

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:110:y:2012:i:4:p:457-467
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    1. Elaine Sternberg, 1997. "The Defects of Stakeholder Theory," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(1), pages 3-10, 01.
    2. Sirkku Hellsten & Chris Mallin, 2006. "Are ‘Ethical’ or ‘Socially Responsible’ Investments Socially Responsible?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 66(4), pages 393-406, 07.
    3. Edmund Byrne, 2011. "Business Ethics Should Study Illicit Businesses: To Advance Respect for Human Rights," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 103(4), pages 497-509, November.
    4. Shallini Taneja & Pawan Taneja & Rajen Gupta, 2011. "Researches in Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of Shifting Focus, Paradigms, and Methodologies," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(3), pages 343-364, July.
    5. Jeremy Galbreath, 2011. "To What Extent is Business Responding to Climate Change? Evidence from a Global Wine Producer," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 104(3), pages 421-432, December.
    6. Ulf Richter, 2010. "Liberal Thought in Reasoning on CSR," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 97(4), pages 625-649, December.
    7. Ye Cai & Hoje Jo & Carrie Pan, 2012. "Doing Well While Doing Bad? CSR in Controversial Industry Sectors," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 108(4), pages 467-480, July.
    8. Paul Lansing & Michael Petersen, 2011. "Ship-Owners and the Twenty-First Century Somali Pirate: The Business Ethics of Ransom Payment," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 102(3), pages 507-516, September.
    9. Bryan W. Husted & José de Jesus Salazar, 2006. "Taking Friedman Seriously: Maximizing Profits and Social Performance," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 75-91, 01.
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