Corporate Citizenship und die Finanzkrise: Chance oder Gefahr?

19. November 2008

Die Diskussionen um die Finanzkrise und die hieraus resultierenden Folgen für die CSR-Praxis halten an. Auch Bradley K. Googins, Direktor des Center for Corporate Citizenship am Boston College, widmet sich dem Thema und sieht den Kapitalismus und das gesellschaftliche Engagement von Unternehmen an einem zentralen Scheideweg.

In seinem Director’s Blog fordert Brad Googins in Anlehnung an Bill Gates einen "Creative Capitalism", der auf Kooperation von Unternehmen, gemeinnützigen sowie staatlichen Organisationen zur Lösung gesellschaftlicher Probleme setzt. Ein aktiver Dialog zwischen Unternehmen, Regierung und Gesellschaft sei dabei eine zentrale Voraussetzung.

"In monitoring conversations with companies around the globe, those who are leading the corporate citizenship or sustainability space are understandably nervous about potential negative implications going ahead.

It was only a very few months ago that things could not have been rosier, and there finally seemed to be a significant breakthrough in the Sisyphean task of the past decade. Even the Economist in January admitted it might have been too harsh in viewing the corporate responsibility movement as a flash in the pan.

But how quickly things can change. A whole new meaning of climate change has been introduced into the public dialogue. Instead of a focus on the environment, a very different and much more powerful climate change conversation has been thrust upon us, one that may in fact be reshaping capitalism as we know it.

Despite the shock and awe of the financial meltdown, viewed from another angle these developments might in fact serve as a great opportunity for corporate citizenship.

It is clear the failure of an unregulated financial system that almost brought the house down will no doubt be followed by aggressive legislation and regulation as an antidote to calm the fears. Already there have been discussions by congressional leaders and others about using this new window to mandate new measures to address climate change, implement safeguards for food, toys and prescription drugs from China, and expand health care insurance mandates.

This sudden jolt to our business and to our society and the destructive trail it is leaving can be seen as a damning indictment of business holding onto an excessive free market model and not listening to the growing voices of other stakeholders that have been getting stronger over the past few years. The rise of the green consumer, social investing and the incipient wave of new expectations from millennial employees have been largely ignored or not taken seriously. Even Bill Gates’ call for a creative capitalism to address the cracks that are beginning to appear in the foundation was not widely embraced.

A crossroad for capitalism and corporate citizenship

So here we are at a crossroad for capitalism and corporate citizenship. The trust in a self-regulating system has been lost and the role of lobbying by the business community has been put in a very different light.

However, equally dangerous might be a swing of the pendulum too far toward regulation and mandates. We know already that regulations can serve as a disastrous drag on innovation and markets.

No one can comply themselves to excellence, whether in a particular business or in a company’s citizenship.

Whatever solutions that are brought forward cannot preserve the current laissez faire system, nor can they result in overregulation that could kill the entrepreneurial spirit that has brought so much prosperity around the world.

Gates’ call at Davos for a new form of capitalism in effect recognizes this bind, and serves as a clarion call for a new approach where the issues of all stakeholders can be factored into a more inclusive and transparent process. This new approach will also understand and address the flaws of the current model that not only overlooked but perhaps inadvertently exacerbated key issues of inequality, poverty and environmental degradation.

So where do we go from here?

At the very least it is time for a very active dialogue in the business community, and between the business community and those of government and civil society.

The events of the past few weeks are humbling reminders that we need to broaden the dialogue, consider alternative forms of capitalism and together develop a new vision and consensus for our society. This will require a new leadership with a more active vision and voice. The Chambers of Commerce and many of the K Street operations cannot continue to represent the narrow self interests of business. This is an old and decrepit form of engagement that has to be transformed if business is going to regain any semblance of trust from its stakeholders.

Business has to find a new form of engagement with society. It needs to create a new form of global capitalism that reflects blended values with a new respect for the role of government in providing a stronger oversight that its citizens can trust will ensure their interests are protected.

At the same time those in the corporate citizenship arena have to widen their lens to guarantee that the real issues of citizenship - trust, authenticity, genuine engagement of stakeholders and an integrated and accountable citizenship - are baked into the very core of business.

Restoring faith to damaged and disillusioned employees, customers, suppliers and communities is an extremely difficult and challenging task. Just look at the crisis of the sexual abuse scandals that shook the Catholic Church to understand just how difficult turning this around will be. Whatever mechanisms we ultimately employ, we know they will have to be guided by active leadership, and infused with basic virtues such as humility, authenticity and accountability.

We are presented with a great opportunity not only for corporate citizenship to deepen its value and contribution to the business, but for business to increase the value of capitalism to realize its potential to create a just and sustainable world."


Weiteres zum Thema

Brad Googins Director's Blog