Saturday, October 23

Why corporate social responsibility is BS | Robert Reich

IIn recent years, some have seen “corporate social responsibility” as the answer to the many failures of capitalism. CEOs have responded to all manner of issues – worsening climate change, rising inequality, rising health care costs, etc. – by promising that their corporations will lead the way to solutions because they are committed to being “socially responsible”.

Ninety-eight percent of this is garbage. CEOs will not do anything to harm their bottom line. They are in the business of making as much money as possible, not solving social problems.

In fact, real social change would prevent them from doing many of the enormously profitable things they do now. Which means that they will not change their forms unless they are required by law to switch (and even then, only when the penalty multiplied by the probability of being caught is greater than the winnings of continuing anyway). His reassuring promises of social responsibility are designed to thwart such laws.

I have seen this repeatedly. When I was Secretary of Labor, large corporations violated the laws on worker safety, wages and hours, and pensions, whenever doing so was cheaper than obeying the laws. And, to begin with, they would fight like hell against such laws, while telling the public what wonderful citizens they were.

You may recall that in August 2019, the Business Roundtable, one of Washington’s most prestigious corporate groups, in whose board sit the CEOs of Apple, Walmart and JPMorgan – issued a widely publicized statement expressing “a fundamental commitment” to the well-being of “everybody our stakeholders ”(emphasis in original), including their employees, communities and the environment.

The statement was widely acclaimed for marking a new era of corporate social responsibility.

Since then, the Roundtable and its members have issued a continuous stream of unfair statements about their dedication to things like providing affordable childcare, pre-K and healthcare, promoting workforce training and community colleges, alleviating poverty, and reverse climate change.

It turns out that these are exactly the priorities in Joe Biden’s $ 3.5 billion reconciliation bill. But guess that? The Business Roundtable is not pushing for the bill. Is pressing intensely against that.

Jessica Boulanger, spokesperson, told the Washington Post The Roundtable is engaged in “a meaningful and multifaceted campaign” to stop the tax increases that would fund the bill and “will continue to intensify our efforts in the weeks ahead.” The group is launching a seven-figure digital ad campaign to oppose the bill.

Hypocrisy? Only if you believed in the BS Roundtable on corporate social responsibility. If you know the truth, that corporations will do their best to maximize profits and share values, to hell with social responsibility, there is nothing surprising here.

Why didn’t business groups fight the president’s infrastructure bill? Because public spending on infrastructure helps your bottom line by reducing your procurement costs for supplies and bringing goods to market. Social responsibility had nothing to do with it.

It’s tempting to attribute all of this to “corporate greed.” But that makes sense only if you think corporations are capable of emotions, like greed. They are not. Corporations are not people, no matter what the supreme court says. They are bundles of contracts.

The specific people who enter into those contracts – on behalf of large corporations, as well as thousands of people who manage vast mutual funds on behalf of millions of shareholders – are neither greedy nor socially responsible. They are simply doing what they understand to be their job. Greed and social responsibility have been removed from these transactions.

If we want these transactions to change, to better align with public needs rather than private profits, the laws must change. For example, taxes on large corporations must be increased to finance public investments and safety nets.

But those laws won’t change if corporations continue to spend large sums on politics. Corporate spokespersons like Boulanger of the Business Roundtable, along with platoons of corporate lobbyists and influence peddlers, paid corporate lawyers and economists, corporate political operatives and public relations masks, together form in effect a fourth branch of government, wielding enormous power and growing. About one in four people now working in central Washington fulfills one of these roles.

The result is clear. The most revealing trends in the last three decades have been the economy’s growing share of corporate profits, generating ever-increasing compensation packages for top executives and ever-higher payouts for large investors (all of whom live off stocks). . and the declining part goes to most Americans as wages and salaries.

The nonsensical talk about “corporate social responsibility” is intended to mask these trends. Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion plan aims to reverse them.

But big business is doing everything they can to sabotage Biden’s plan. The only way to stop this sabotage is to ignore any mention of corporate social responsibility and make a big fuss in support of Biden’s plan, as well as laws to reduce the power of big money in politics.

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