Corporate conundrums / Columns / The Foreigner

Corporate conundrums. Are corporations the evil multinational empire sucking you and your descendants' blood, or do-gooders who keep the world turning? The truth is that both forms exist--alongside many in between. Businesses aiming for social and environmental improvements embody an ethos referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or just Corporate Responsibility. I attended a CSR conference in Oslo last month, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fascinating two days embraced topics ranging from UN initiatives in human rights to Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund. Speakers with opposing views directly debated each other, addressing propositions as provocative as "CSR has played a key role in civilising business".

norwaycorporateresponsibility, corporatesocialresponsibilitynorway, climate, environment



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Corporate conundrums

Published on Friday, 30th November, 2012 at 19:44 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Are corporations the evil multinational empire sucking you and your descendants' blood, or do-gooders who keep the world turning? The truth is that both forms exist--alongside many in between.

Trond Giske, Trade and Industry Minister
Minister Giske speaking at the conferenceTrond Giske, Trade and Industry Minister
Photo: Ilan Kelman


Businesses aiming for social and environmental improvements embody an ethos referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or just Corporate Responsibility. I attended a CSR conference in Oslo last month, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The fascinating two days embraced topics ranging from UN initiatives in human rights to Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund. Speakers with opposing views directly debated each other, addressing propositions as provocative as "CSR has played a key role in civilising business".

Academics, union representatives, non-governmental organisations, interest groups, civil servants, and corporate executives sat side-by-side. Some panellists certainly learned a lot despite little open acrimony­ – whether they wanted to or not.

Over 500 registered guests enjoyed the conference's high political profile. Day 1's welcoming address was from Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide. Trond Giske, Minister of Trade and Industry, gave Day 2's keynote and then took questions from the audience. HRH Crown Prince Haakon attended the closing session.

The Norwegian Business School organised a post-conference debate on "Beyond CSR". Environmentalist/writer George Monbiot and one of IBM's vice-presidents, Caroline Taylor, clashed during a lively exchange.

What were the conference's principal conclusions? No doubt exists that companies can support a better world. No doubt exists that they might not want to.

The corporate representatives accepted that their organisations err. Sins include corruption, bribery, dishonesty, and cover-ups. But, they argued, CSR is enlightened self-interest. Doing good for society is doing good for their business.

Naturally, businesspeople who attend CSR events are already a self-selecting group. Numerous good practice examples were met with equally prevalent problematic counterexamples, especially given the industries not prominently represented such as tobacco and weapons. Everyone accepted the gap between what is said and what is done regarding CSR.

We have a long way to go before people and profit will exist in harmony.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is aSenior Research Fellowat the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Friday, 30th November, 2012 at 19:44 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: norwaycorporateresponsibility, corporatesocialresponsibilitynorway, climate, environment.





  
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