Economics

Not So Committed?

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Science  30 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6076, pp. 1547
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6076.1547-a

What factors influence the willingness of companies to engage in acts of social responsibility, and when does it represent a real commitment rather than window dressing? To study this question, Lim and Tsutsui looked at two global initiatives. The United Nations Global Compact encourages businesses to use sustainable practices and focuses on human rights, labor, the environment, and anticorruption. Governments can formally endorse the program, and corporations who participate are expected to submit annual Communications of Progress. The Global Reporting Initiative, which provides standards and Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, requires an even more substantial commitment. Using data from 99 countries spanning 2000–2007, the authors found that nongovernmental organization linkages encouraged the adoption of corporate social responsibility policies. In developing countries, this was associated with substantial commitment; however, in developed countries, commitment was more ceremonial. Liberal economic policies in the developed world were also associated with ceremonial commitment, suggesting to the authors a “pattern of organized hypocrisy” in which costly norms are imposed by the developed world on others.

Am. Sociol. Rev. 77, 69 (2012).

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