Myths About CSR in Developing Countries

Myths About CSR in Developing Countries

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 10 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for CSRwire.

Are conceptions and models of CSR developed in the West appropriate for developing countries? I first tackled this question by setting out what I believe to be 7 popular myths about CSR in developing countries. Most of these myths exist as a result of the feeding frenzy that inevitably occurs every time the media has hunted down and sunk its teeth into one or other juicy story of corporate exploitation. The myths are also sustained, however, by whole legions of largely well-intentioned people who have vested interests in promoting their particular brand of the truth about CSR.

  1. Economic growth is not compatible with CSR
  2. Multinationals are the biggest CSR sinners
  3. Multinationals are the biggest CSR saviours
  4. Developing countries are anti-multinational
  5. Developed countries lead on CSR
  6. Codes can ensure CSR in developing countries
  7. CSR is the same the world over

Let’s look at these myths each briefly in turn.

Myth 1 – Economic growth is not compatible with CSR.

What the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare and Genuine Progress Index show is that GDP growth and quality of life move in parallel until social and environmental costs begin to outweigh economic benefits. According to this ‘threshold hypothesis’ (coined by Chilean barefoot economist, Manfred Max-Neef), most developing countries have yet to reach this divergence threshold. For them, economic growth and the expansion of business activities is still one of the most effective ways to achieve improved social development, while environmental impacts are increasingly being tackled through leapfrog clean technologies.

Myth 2 – Multinationals are the biggest CSR sinners.

On the ground in most countries, multinationals are generally powerful forces for good, through their investment in local economies, creation of jobs, upgrading of infrastructure, provision of basic services and involvement in community development and environmental conservation. There are always exceptions, of course, and these should be named and shamed. But they shouldn’t overshadow the overall positive role of big companies in developing countries. The cumulative social and environmental impacts of smaller companies, which operate below the radar of the media and out of reach of the arm of the law, are typically far larger than that of the high profile multinationals.

Myth 3 – Multinationals are the biggest CSR saviours.

Not only do large companies have limited influence over government policy, but most multinationals, despite large capital investments, provide only a minuscule proportion of the total employment in developing countries. The real potential saviours are small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), including social enterprises, which are labour intensive and better placed to effect local economic development. If the social and environmental impacts of these SMMEs can be improved, the knock on benefits will be proportionally much greater than anything that multinationals could achieve on their own. This is why the work CSR for SMEs by Anuhuac University in Mexico and Forum Empresa in Latin America is so encouraging and important …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/blog_myths_developing_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Myths About CSR in Developing Countries (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Link[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2011) Myths About CSR in Developing Countries, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 8 December 2011.

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CSR Myths

CSR Myths:

Popular Misconceptions on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility

Article by Wayne Visser

In an article published by Ethical Corporation, I set out to explode 7 myths about corporate sustainability and responsibility (CSR). Most of these myths exist as a result of the feeding frenzy that inevitably occurs every time the media has hunted down and sunk its teeth into one or other juicy story of corporate exploitation. The myths are also sustained, however, by whole legions of largely well-intentioned people who have vested interests in promoting their particular brand of the truth about CSR. The 7 myths are:

  1. Economic growth is not compatible with CSR
  2. Multinationals are the biggest CSR sinners
  3. Multinationals are the biggest CSR saviours
  4. Developing countries are anti-multinational
  5. CSR is the same the world over
  6. Developed countries lead on CSR
  7. Codes can ensure CSR …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/inspiration_csr_myths_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] CSR Myths (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/business-frontiers”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2008) CSR Drivers: The Forces Shaping Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 3.

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Corporate Responsibility in a Developing Country Context

Corporate Responsibility in a Developing Country Context

Article by Wayne Visser

In this article, I want to explode a few myths about corporate responsibility in developing countries. Most of these myths exist as a result of the feeding frenzy that inevitably occurs every time the media has hunted down and sunk its teeth into one or other juicy story of corporate exploitation. The myths are also sustained, however, by whole legions of largely well-intentioned people in developed countries who have vested interests in promoting their particular brand of the truth about corporate responsibility.

Myth 1: Economic growth is not good

Over the past decade or more, there has been a growing backlash against the economic expansionist agenda of many developed countries and multinational corporations. And rightly so: Blind pursuit of GDP growth or market growth often fails to take into account many of its negative social and environmental impacts, as alternative indicators of progress, like the United Nations Human Development Index, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) and the Environmental Sustainability Index, have all amply demonstrated.

But it is a mistake to transpose this “growth is not good” argument into a developing country context. What the ISEW showed, in fact, was that GDP growth and quality of life in developed countries like the USA and UK moved in parallel until around 1970, when they began to diverge, with quality of life declining despite continued economic growth. Most developing countries have yet to reach that point of divergence. Economic growth and the expansion of business activities is still one of the most effective ways to achieve improved social development and environmental sustainability.

Myth 2: Multinationals are the biggest sinners

In today’s fishbowl world, when multinationals step out of line, they get slammed in the worldwide media. Typically, their reputations suffer collateral damage and they find themselves being targeted by consumer boycotts and liability suits. This is both appropriate and necessary as a counterbalancing force in today’s supra-territorial society, given the overwhelming size and power of global corporations and the still relatively poor institutional frameworks of regulation and governance to ensure proper accountability.

But on balance, these sensational cases are the exception, rather than the rule. On the ground in developing countries, multinationals are generally powerful forces for good, through their investment in local economies, creation of jobs, upgrading of infrastructure, provision of basic services and involvement in community development and environmental conservation. The cumulative social and environmental impacts of smaller companies, which operate below the radar of the media and out of reach of the arm of the law, are typically far larger than that of the high profile multinationals.

Myth 3: Multinationals are the biggest saviours

While multinationals are typically not the worst offenders in developing countries, neither do they have as much influence over national development as many critics seem to assume. Development is a complex phenomenon, which fifty years of multilateral frustration has proved beyond question. Adequate systems of governance and economic stability are probably two of the most critical enablers, a fact that countries in Africa have finally realised with the launch of the African Union and  …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_myths_devcos_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Corporate Responsibility in a Developing Country Context (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-world-guide-to-csr”]Page[/button] The World Guide to CSR (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2003) Corporate Responsibility in a Developing Country Context. Ethical Corporation, Issue 20, August.

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