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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



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

Suggested Citation

  • Margaret Lindorff & Elizabeth Prior Jonson & Linda McGuire, 2012. "Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility in Controversial Industry Sectors: The Social Value of Harm Minimisation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 110(4), pages 457-467, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:110:y:2012:i:4:p:457-467
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1493-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ulf Richter, 2010. "Liberal Thought in Reasoning on CSR," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 97(4), pages 625-649, December.
    2. 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, January.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
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    6. Elaine Sternberg, 1997. "The Defects of Stakeholder Theory," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(1), pages 3-10, January.
    7. Sirkku Hellsten & Chris Mallin, 2006. "Are ‘Ethical’ or ‘Socially Responsible’ Investments Socially Responsible?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 66(4), pages 393-406, July.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kirsti Iivonen & Johanna Moisander, 2015. "Rhetorical Construction of Narcissistic CSR Orientation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 649-664, October.
    2. Mahfuja Malik, 2015. "Value-Enhancing Capabilities of CSR: A Brief Review of Contemporary Literature," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 127(2), pages 419-438, March.
    3. Tam Thien Vo & Xinning Xiao & Shuk Ying Ho, 2019. "How Does Corporate Social Responsibility Engagement Influence Word of Mouth on Twitter? Evidence from the Airline Industry," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 157(2), pages 525-542, June.
    4. Yang Zhang, 2018. "Corporate Governance Effects on Risk Management and Shareholder Wealth: The Case of Mergers and Acquisitions," PhD Thesis, Finance Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, number 4-2018.
    5. Leventis, Stergios & Hasan, Iftekhar & Dedoulis, Emmanouil, 2013. "The cost of sin: The effect of social norms on audit pricing," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 152-165.
    6. João Guerreiro & Paulo Rita & Duarte Trigueiros, 2016. "A Text Mining-Based Review of Cause-Related Marketing Literature," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 139(1), pages 111-128, November.
    7. Ulf H. Richter & Felix F. Arndt, 2018. "Cognitive Processes in the CSR Decision-Making Process: A Sensemaking Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 148(3), pages 587-602, March.
    8. Kirsti Iivonen, 2018. "Defensive Responses to Strategic Sustainability Paradoxes: Have Your Coke and Drink It Too!," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 148(2), pages 309-327, March.
    9. Jeffrey S. Harrison & Shawn L. Berman, 2016. "Corporate Social Performance and Economic Cycles," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 138(2), pages 279-294, October.
    10. Francesca Conte & Pierluigi Vitale & Agostino Vollero & Alfonso Siano, 2018. "Designing a Data Visualization Dashboard for Managing the Sustainability Communication of Healthcare Organizations on Facebook," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(12), pages 1-14, November.
    11. Asriansyah Siran Mawung & Bambang Mantikei Jaya Budi & Lelo Sintani & Agus Satrya Wibowo, 2019. "Effects of Employee Commitment on Collectivism in the Workplace: Further Evidence," International Journal of Economics & Business Administration (IJEBA), International Journal of Economics & Business Administration (IJEBA), vol. 0(4), pages 504-513.


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