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The principles and practices of corporate social responsibility date back more than a century , but the current wave of global interest is unprecedented. With The Market for Virtue, David Vogel has provided the most comprehensive analysis to date of the contemporary CSR movement in both the United States and Europe. Growing awareness of CSR is evident in the growth of social and ethical investment funds, voluntary codes of corporate conduct, and companies’ self-reporting on social and environmental practices. Deep grassroots interests can be seen in boycotts, protests, and the growing number of organizations monitoring corporate social and environmental performance. A renowned authority on business-government relations, Vogel offers a thoughtful and balanced appraisal of the movement’s accomplishments and limitations, including a critical evaluation of the business case for CSR. While acknowledging the movement’s achievements—most notably in labor, human rights, and environmental conditions in developing countries—Vogel also demonstrates that CSR’s potential to bring about a significant change in corporate behavior is exaggerated. While corporate social responsibility can be a useful tool alongside laws and regulations, it cannot completely replace them. The Market for Virtue explores the extent to which improvements in corporate conduct can occur without more extensive or effective government regulation—in the United States, Europe, the Far East, and developing nations. In other words, what is the long-term potential of business self-regulation? The improvement that can be expected is far more modest than recent breathless writing on CSR would indicate. At some point, many businesses must choose between doing what seems ethically rights and what is most profitable. Since businesses are typically found to make money—and because shareholders and capitalism demand that they do so—the bottom line tends to win out. There is a market for virtue, but it is limited by the substantial costs of more responsible business behavior.
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David Vogel is the Solomon Lee Professor of Business Ethics at the Haas School of Business and professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Barriers or Benefits? Regulation in Transatlantic Trade (Brookings, 1998); Kindred Strangers: The Uneasy Relationship between Politics and Business (Princeton, 1996); and Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy (Harvard, 1995).Review:
"Here is the definitive guide to what corporate social responsibility can and cannot accomplish in a modern capitalist economy." --Robert B. Reich, University Professor of social and economic policy, Brandeis University, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
"The study combines sound logic with illustrative cases, and advances the sophistication of the CSR debate considerably." --John G. Ruggie, Harvard University, co-architect of UN Global Compact
"Vogel provides needed clarity about the costs, benefits, ambiguities and potential of corporate social responsibility." --Susan Ariel Aaronson, senior fellow, Kenan Institute at the University of North Carolina
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