These are trying times for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Two decades after its conception, one senses among many a kind of fatigue, impatience, even despair about the limits of CSR. Recent studies and skeptical perspectives yield a picture of CSR as a contingent movement, involving actions that will be undertaken only if the demands of priority stakeholders—namely investors and consumers—are concurrently met. It is time to think more systemically, beyond the boundaries of CSR, if business is to achieve the level of social contribution it is uniquely capable of making.
Originally published in the Journal of Corporate Citizenship 33 (Spring 2009): 23-27.