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At Issue } essential reading

Businesses Aren't Charities, and We Don't Want Them to Be

Debora Spar
Friday, May 21, 2010

Like motherhood and apple pie, corporate social responsibility has achieved iconic status as a feel-good pursuit. Corporations around the world have embraced its charitable philosophy and created divisions devoted to its pursuit. The problem, however, is that corporate social responsibility — by design and definition — can only go so far. Because no matter how widely a firm defines its reach, and how generous its leadership grows, the primary objective of any for-profit firm in a capitalist system will still be as Friedman described it: to maximize the returns of its shareholders. Or at least not to engage in any activity that undermines those returns.

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