Corporate Social Responsibility

Some people think we should study the effects of business on social welfare a lot more.

For too long, scholarship in the field of management has looked at economic performance rather than social welfare, argue HBS professor Joshua Margolis and colleagues James P. Walsh, of University of Michigan Business School, and Klaus Weber, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

"Our message," says Margolis in this interview, "is that as business plays an increasingly important role in society, it is important to correct the drift away from social welfare and devote more research attention to social welfare issues."

The collaborators came to their conclusion after studying research published between 1958 and 2001. Their findings were recorded in their paper "Social Issues and Management: Our Lost Cause Found," published by the Journal of Management, December, 2003.

By studying the interplay of business and society, Margolis says, researchers might be able to address such issues as "how corporate practices contribute to or detract from stable societal institutions or democratic processes, or how might companies advance individual learning and growth, or the capacity of individuals to be conscientious citizens." In addition, this information would help managers better understand their big-picture role and perhaps lead to more ethical conduct in business.

I'm all for studying this, because the more information that is out there, the better capitalism works. As long as people don't start forcing their social value judgements on corporations via laws, then it is fine. If they want to vote with their dollars, I'm all for it.