If “corporate social responsibility” is to be more than a brilliant strategy for compelling companies to follow the dictates of “progressive” pressure groups, it must apply defensible ethical principles to all organizations. That is not now the case.
The current system targets companies for pollution, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, climate change and other transgressions. A host of activists, academics, journalists, lawyers, politicians, regulators, judges and Hollywood producers help ferret out wrongdoers – actual, alleged and fictitious.
Where the wrongs are real, and the ethical guidelines are valid, society is well served. That this is not always the case is well documented. But there is another, more serious problem with CSR.
Its guidelines are often malleable, politically motivated and applied only to for-profit corporations.
If an accident kills wildlife or people, the law and basic ethics require that punishment is meted out and restitution made. But when it comes to policies and programs that sicken and kill millions of parents and children a year, society and the CSR warriors are not just silent. They see little reason why government agencies or multinational activist corporations should be held to the same standards of ethics, honesty, transparency or accountability as for-profit companies.
There may be no better example than malaria, to illustrate why they should be.
More than 2 billion people worldwide are at risk of getting this disease, and 350-500 million contract it every year, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria kills up to a million African children annually, making it the continent’s biggest killer of children under age five.
In Uganda alone, a nation of 30 million people, 60 million cases of malaria caused 110,000 deaths in 2005. In its Apac District, a person is likely to be bitten 1,560 times a year by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites. The disease also perpetuates poverty (sick people can’t work) and increases deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhea and malnutrition.
Controlling and eradicating this serial killer ought to be a global priority. But far too many organizations fail to take sufficient measures, while others actively oppose critically needed interventions.
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