Corporate social responsibility describes a company’s willingness to be held accountable for its actions before local or international stakeholders. As a field, CSR experienced a phenomenal growth in the late 1990s that continues today. Even before the scandals at Enron and Andersen, many companies were lining up to prove their commitment to social, economic and environmental ideals. Phrases such as “sustainable development” and “triple bottom line” appeared frequently in annual reports and press releases, with the aim of wining the approbation of government and shareholders.
But have these pledges and promises made a real difference? Are companies following through, or has the exercise merely resulted in a “beauty contest” approach to assuaging stakeholder concern? A new study by London-based Tomorrow’s Company (www.tomorrowscompany.com) suggests the latter, with few exceptions.