In the end, social responsibility reports are an attempt by large companies to take the high ground and persuade people that the harsh regulatory medicine prescribed by Joel Bakan is not necessary. Business leaders are certainly aware of how the recent scandals have undermined public confidence in corporations. They recognize that they have their company’s reputation to protect and markets to grow, in a way that requires being accountable to more stakeholders. And there may also be personal motives. As a friend of mine says, “It’s possible that Phil Knight and Jeffrey Immelt have decided that they don’t want to look in the mirror every morning and see Fastow or Eisner looking back at them.”
My own view is this: If General Electric can boycott Myanmar because of its human rights violations, then anything is possible.
Reprint No. 05310
Milton Moskowitz ([email protected]) is senior editor of Business and Society Review and codeveloper of Fortune magazine’s annual survey of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” produced with Robert Levering and the Great Place to Work Institute. He is the author of seven books, including Everybody’s Business (Doubleday, 1990) and The Global Marketplace (Macmillan, 1987).