The Future of CSR will Mirror the Health of Society: Pondering the Evolution of CSR
Álvaro J. de Regil
This essay envisions the future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the mid and long term. The author delves into the distant future, parting from a recent exercise of exploring CSR, ten years from now, that Allen White* offers us in his essay "Fade, Integrate or Transform? -The Future of CSR."
The author first establishes that the future of market societies is not sustainable, for governments, which are suppose to be democratic, have partnered with big capital to pursue their very private interests and have abandoned their responsibility to procure the welfare of all ranks of society. Today, the goal of this partnership is to obsessively pursue, with a very short-term vision, the greatest possible shareholder value, regardless of the social, economic and environmental impact. Thus, the author foresees that this ethos will be radically transformed by society to build a new paradigm that, coinciding with White's third scenario, redefines the purpose of business.
Yet, the author considers that redefining the end of business will require the complete redefinition of the purpose of democracy and its societies. The author argues that, given the pressing social and environmental decay, society will not allow the current ethos to prevail, and it is already seeking to build an ethos of real and direct democracy, participative and bottom up, that places social welfare above the private interest.
In this way, the future of CSR, as such, will disappear to assimilate itself to the paradigmatic shift in which social welfare becomes the primary purpose of business, governed by universal laws and standards that rule its activity. Yet, the author deems that this will not occur before the term of one generation, for building a truly democratic ethos entails redefining the pillars of society, from democracy, liberalism and the purpose of business to individualism, solidarity and the precedence of the community to create an entirely new culture for the 21st Century and beyond. Thus, this shift, which is already in motion, will be accomplished gradually as more and more people worldwide take conscience of the unsustainability of the current ethos and of the urgency to build a new paradigm to bequest to future generations.
* Senior Advisor to Business for Social Responsibility, Senior Fellow at the Tellus Institute and co-founder of the Global Reporting Initiative.