In the wake of last week’s global conference at United Nations headquarters, “UN+15:Business As a Force For Good“, major media are reporting “compelling recent examples” of corporations’ positive role on social issues.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, citing just the more recent private sector initiatives influencing social progress — the confederate flag controversy, same sex marriage and immigration reform — today described the rationale for these corporate social responsibility commitments:
“Are these companies acting in their own interests? Absolutely… But those efforts, coupled with whatever genuine altruism and civic obligations some corporate leaders feel, have produced compelling recent examples of companies showing greater sensitivity to diversity, social justice and the changing tides of public sentiment than lawmakers often manage to.
“Corporations aren’t paralyzed by partisan bickering. They’re not hostage to a few big donors, a few loud interest groups or some unyielding ideology.”
(Subhead on the Bruni article: “On many social issues, big business is leading the way.”)
Bruni’s Times fellow columnist Eduardo Porter, perhaps coincidentally, today weighed in on the private sector’s broad support for market-based policy on climate change — cap and trade/carbon pricing (see UN Global Compact+15 conference discussion of carbon pricing #CSRtalk #CSR.)
Porter, also observing how business is acting where government progress is lacking, observes, “when President Obama proposed using ‘cap and trade’ to cut emissions of greenhouse gases — the biggest environmental threat of our time — lawmakers looked back upon this unquestionable success and said ‘no'”. He cites Robert N. Stavins, head of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program: ” ‘The only way to do this is to send information through markets.’ An economywide carbon price, he [Stavin] argues, — as does much of the economics profession, including many Republicans — would give all the incentive to reduce emissions at the lowest possible cost.” (Read “U.S. Leaves the Markets Out in the Fight Against Carbon Emissions”.)
Earlier this week Newsweek reported that “Fortune 500 corporations are trying to appeal to (or at least avoid offending ) the widest possible swath of Americans. ‘Inclusiveness’ may not be good politics in this day of polarization and micro-targeting, but it seems to be good business. And that is making the business community the sort of ‘big’ tent’ political force that neither major political party can claim to be… ‘There’s been a major transformation in thinking’ says Peter Madsen, a professor of ethics and social responsibility at Carnegie Mellon University. Now ‘corporations have stakeholders, not just shareholders.'” (Read “How Corporate America Propelled Same-Sex Marriage”.)
Big corporations are taking the lead on social issues ranging from gay marriage to the Confederate flag.
Clearly, on social issues, business is going where politicians fear to read.
And major media are beginning to notice.