This monograph considers the social contribution of business corporations in response to the “governance triangle” of market competition, regulation and pressure from civil society. It examines both “regulated behavior” and autonomous action by corporations in achieving social goals. Corporations are bound by a network of constraints and the monograph considers the elements of this network and the current and projected outcomes as corporations respond to external and internal pressures. The implications for policy and governance are drawn. The literature is examined critically and a potential research agenda is drawn. The mechanisms of change are analyzed together with their likely efficacy in achieving social purposes for the business corporation.
This monograph examines the evolution of the social purpose of the corporation. This development has taken place against the background of changing regulations and globalization. Consequently, international regulations, codes of conduct and standards have impinged upon corporate strategy as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices have transmuted from compliance to notions of “corporate citizenship” and then to “the responsible corporation”. This growing web of constraint on corporations has led to the belief that corporations should earn a “license to operate” based on their social contributions. The idea that social goals must be internalized into corporate strategic goals leads to the emergence of the “purposeful corporation”. These changes in the environment for business provide strategic opportunities as well as constraints.
The first section examines the Corporation and the related issues of ownership and control and the role of stakeholders. The following section examines the Social Responsibility of the Corporation, its governance and changing attitudes to corporate social responsibility, covering periods of awakening to CSR and compliance, “the corporate citizen” notion and the emergence of the “responsible corporation”. The next section analyzes “Regulation and Constraints on the Corporation” to set the scene for the move from “the Web of Constraint to the Web of Opportunity”. This section includes the idea that corporations need to earn a “license to operate through positive social contributions and the move to positive social purpose in the emergence of the “purposeful corporation”. The monograph provides a Conclusion and Research Agenda for future research.