Global Corporate Citizenship

Working With Governments and Civil Society

Courtesy Reuters

Compared to just a decade ago, it is now common for businesspeople to talk about social responsibility and the importance of being good corporate citizens. Many business leaders today consider it critical to engage with shareholders, the communities in which their companies operate, and others affected by and interested in what they do. The diverse activities needed to respond to these expanded duties are widely referred to by the catchall phrase "corporate social responsibility." It incorporates a host of concepts and practices, including the necessity for adequate corporate governance structures, the implementation of workplace safety standards, the adoption of environmentally sustainable procedures, and philanthropy.

Blanketing these various responsibilities with the single term "corporate social responsibility" is an oversimplification that has led to a great deal of confusion. It is necessary to distinguish between the different types of corporate activities, so that the work companies do to engage in society is fairly recognized and appreciated and companies are better able to benchmark themselves against the performance of different enterprises and learn from example. A better understanding of engagement requires separate definitions for corporate governance, corporate philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility as well as for an emerging element: corporate social entrepreneurship, that is, the transformation of socially responsible principles and ideas into commercial value.

Above all, a new imperative for business, best described as "global corporate citizenship," must be recognized. It expresses the conviction that companies not only must be engaged with their stakeholders but are themselves stakeholders alongside governments and civil society. International business leaders must fully commit to sustainable development and address paramount global challenges, including climate change, the provision of public health care, energy conservation, and the management of resources, particularly water. Because these global issues increasingly impact business, not to engage with them can hurt the bottom line. Because global citizenship is in a corporation's enlightened self-interest, it is sustainable. Addressing global issues can be good both for the corporation and for society at a time of increasing globalization

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