What constitutes corporate responsibility round the world, why companies have duties and how to avoid greenwashing
CR and cultural divergences
Culture, it’s said, is king. Corporate responsibility is no exception. This fascinating study looks into senior executives’ ideas of responsible business in five territories: the US, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Germany. The authors identify various schematics at play. The most significant is whether corporate responsibility is explicit (a conscious policy, as is the case of Hong Kong) or implicit (ie a natural, expected form of corporate behaviour). Within the former, there are two sub-divisions: “stakeholder-oriented” responsibility or “production-oriented” responsibility. And then within stakeholder-orientated responsibility, different audiences predominate in different markets. In all, the paper finds little ostensible evidence for conceptual convergence between different nations. Indeed, as more emerging markets evolve mature business systems, the authors anticipate the diversity of interpretations increasing.
For theorists of systems thinking, however, the paper holds insights around the principle of “equifinality”, described as “the notion of system elements self-organising into autocatalytic sets that function in a stable manner and self-replicate”. In other words, systems can have different internal configurations (based on belief systems, government policy, economic co-ordination and the like) and yet still achieve the same outcome.
The question left hanging is, “what’s the desired outcome?” The answer is social legitimacy;...