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The dark side of “socially responsible” corporations

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The dark side of “socially responsible” corporations

Beware, middle market CEOs: We’re all Jacobins now.

“Virtue without which terror is fatal, terror without which virtue is impotent. The terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue.”   -- Robespierre                                                                                              

Now that Mozilla co-founder and flash-CEO (his tenure lasted all of ten days) Brendan Eich has been effectively dispatched by the mob for the “sin” of giving a $1,000 donation years ago in support of traditional marriage, it is perhaps wise to step back and look at the larger picture.

For decades now, the idea that companies should go beyond their fundamental purposes of creating products and services in pursuit of profits and maximizing shareholder returns to becoming “responsible corporate citizens” has gained strength.  It is now a virtual imperative for companies of all sizes to have the requisite “sustainability” or “diversity” or whatever other “-ity” statements in their corporate mission statements, on their websites, in their corporate policies and, quite often, in their marketing.

And at first glance, who could really argue with that?  After all, isn’t it obvious that successful companies that derive their profits, attract their employees and generally maintain their sustenance from a given community or society should “give back” by doing good works for that community or society?

"It is clear that all societal ends are not equal in the eyes of people who promote socially responsible companies."

But within that seemingly self-evident and egalitarian notion lays a seed of destruction.

Inherent within the idea that companies should pursue egalitarian societal ends is the basic question:  “what ends are desirable?” Now, if we’re talking about simple things like supporting the local Pop Warner football team or sponsoring a 5k run on behalf of breast cancer research, such ends are obvious.  However, as Mozilla, Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby and countless other examples show us, it is clear that all societal ends are not equal in the eyes of people who promote socially responsible companies.

I recall when I was younger, just out of college, and went to work in Chicago for one of the (then) Big 8 public accounting firms.  The firm I worked for, as with most large companies in Chicago, went all-out in the annual United Way fundraising effort.  Clearly, companies considered it a big deal, either in terms of networking or public relations, to be at the top of the corporate fundraising ladder for such a ubiquitous and influential charity, and the annual fundraising drive was the vehicle through which to reach that pinnacle.  As such, enormous pressure was brought to bear on the employees to “dig deep” and contribute through a payroll deduction. 

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Angus DuBois
Angus DuBois
Contributor
Angus DuBois is the nom de plume of an entrepreneur of 20 years who, in cowardly fashion, prefers to keep his/her business identity a secret. Comments can be forwarded to angus@nexxuspublishing.com.

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