Seven positions on social responsibility

Written by kenneth w. michael wills
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Seven positions on social responsibility
Corporate social responsiblity means something different to everyone. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

In 1996, academics Rob Gray, Dave Own and Carol Adams published a book titled "Accounting and Accountability; changes and challenges in corporate social and environmental reporting." They outlined seven positions on corporate social responsibility or CSR. The attempt was to outline a diverse range of positions stakeholders might take when broaching the subject of social responsibility. The seven positions range from a minimal view to the extreme, written from the viewpoint that organisations need to shift from purely economic agendas to social and economic agendas. Their viewpoint also emphasises reliable CSR reporting, due to concerns of current CSR reporting lacking objectivity.

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Pristine Capitalists

This viewpoint emphasises that stakeholders view CSR as an impediment to business and emphasises no responsibilities beyond that of shareholders and creditors. Although pristine capitalists recognise there are social and environmental costs of doing business, they view this as a responsibility of society, not of organisations. However, such a position may allow for governmental regulation that translates social costs to real costs for use in maximising profits.


Expedients are willing to move a bit beyond the pristine capitalists and consider CSR objectives if it contributes positively to the economic interests of the organisation. They often have a long-term view that investing in CSR is good for the bottom line, returning money to the investors based on a solid reputation and good public relations.

Supporters of Social Contracts

Organizations fitting into this category are inclined to take into account the concerns of all those affected by their decisions. This is accomplished through contracts with those affected by decisions of the organisation. Those contracts are enforceable through a variety of mechanisms.

Social Ecologists

Social ecologists mark the turning point in CSR, viewing current organisations as wasteful, exhausting important resources and contributing to pollution problems. As such, organisations must modify their approaches and consciously embrace CSR as the model going forward. This position postulates that commercial enterprises and large organisations are primarily responsible for environmental destructions and should take centre stage in fixing the issues resulting.


Organizations with a socialist bent seek to create an egalitarian equality within the organisation and with its social and economic interests. Socialists most often view the capitalistic system as exploitive and unstable, opting for a society that shares risk and reward equally.

Radical Feminists

This position doesn't have any ties or connections to women's movements. Rather, a radical feminist organisation theoretically seeks to implement feminine values, such as cooperation in all organizational dealings. The view is that business dealings are over-masculine in nature, resulting in many of our social problems, and that feminist values at the centre of the organisation are the answer.

Deep Ecologist

The position of a deep ecologist organisation stresses that human beings are of no more importance than other living organisms and therefore don't have rights to resources or life above those any other being. Deep ecologists often question the need for industry and commerce, instead promoting self-sufficiency and sustainability.

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