Expanded Prospectus

Most compelling and surprising aspects of research:

  • The history of Corporate Social Responsibility, which arose in the manufacturing industry, yet hasn’t made much of a transition into the tech industry, even though the former is thought to be more innovative and altruistic

  • Some people believe corporations shouldn’t be responsible for the effects they have, because corporation’s goals are thought to be profit, and corporations may not even know the best way to go about effecting social change

  • Should people expect the government to contribute to society? Should people expect the business to fill in the government’s shortcomings?

 

How I’m adding to the discussion:

 

  • What is the extent of corporate responsibility? Just ensuring they are not harming the environment and society, or should they also be responsible for governance/education/social work?

  • What are the ways corporations are currently involving themselves, what are the best ways for them to involve themselves? How high is “doing good” ranked on companies’ priorities list?

  • Can social work or social enterprise in technology be profitable? Enough to become a big corporate power? Is there a way doing good can be more profitable than not doing good?

 

 

How I might organize my project by concepts:

 

  • The history of corporations in the US: how corporate power has grown and changed throughout history, how the current position of corporations came to be

  • Defining what CSR is and how it worked in society historically, what ways it was expected to help, what ways it did help, why it helped

  • The current stage, what companies have the most power, what impact they’re making, both positive and negative, and what CSR initiatives, if any, they are taking

  • Discuss whether tech companies should be accountable for the impact they’re making

  • Explore different ways tech companies can impact society, discuss which ones are the most feasible, mutually beneficial, and impactful

  • Address concerns over corporations having a more involved stance in our lives, such as the issues of privacy versus protection, whether there’s a contradiction in doing good and making the most profit (if that’s what a business’s goal truly is)

Most intriguing texts and connections:

 

What Does Corporate Social Responsibility Mean for the Technology Sector?

https://ssir.org/articles/entry/what_does_corporate_social_responsibility_mean_for_the_technology_sector

  • “The industry faces mounting calls to make greater societal contributions beyond those of profit. The technology field is uniquely positioned to give back to society in ways that distinguish it from other industries.”

  • “However, for a field that prides itself on innovation, the prevailing manner in which the technology sector is giving back looks a lot like every other industry: corporate philanthropy and volunteer campaigns. This begs the question: Are there unique ways that the information technology sector can give back, and if so, what are they? The answer lies in invigorating how the sector pursues corporate responsibility (CSR) strategies.”

 

  • Major companies now have in-house CSR divisions and strategies; traditional manufacturing sectors have made big advances in defining and implementing responsible business practices, CSR focus on wellbeing of labor and the environment

    • But this clarity doesn’t exist for the technology sector, labor is not vulnerable but a well-compensated programmer, environment is confined to reducing carbon emissions by increasing computing efficiency

  • So technology professionals are trying to figure out what it means to give back and how to do so, some promising practices

    • ​hackathons are a common technique to spur innovation in the technology field, Cloudera hosted a hackathon to help a nonprofit

    • sf.citi fosters partnerships b/w its members and gov’t to use technology to solve city problems (here is an example of the lines between government and corporations blurring)

    • Google’s Person Finder web application to find people after emergencies, allows nonprofits and gov’t agencies to contribute and receive data

    • show that the technology sector is best at capturing, analyzing, and sharing data, so data analytics is the best they can offer the social sector; the social sector is lacking the ability to collect/use data so would be extremely helpful, would build public trust and support for companies in return

 

L'Etang, Jacquie. “Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility: Some Issues Arising.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 13, no. 2, 1994, pp. 111–123. JSTOR, JSTOR, 

 

  • This paper questions whether CSR is beneficial and whether corporations can be trusted to enact them. It brings up the point that CSR efforts are mostly environmental, rather than social, which could indicate that CSR programs are reactionary, responding to pressures rather than out of real responsibility or morality.

  • This is an interesting point of view, as many believe corporations need to enact CSR to make up for damages corporations may have caused, but this article argues that perhaps CSR initiative are not beneficial to society, at least the way they are structured now. It also emphasizes that CSR initiatives have been mostly reactionary, so it begs the question of whether corporations have changed their ways, how we can get corporations to change CSR initiatives and what they should be changed to, and whether they should have CSR efforts in the first place.

 

 

Planned research:

 

  • Emergence and history of corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, as well as that of social enterprises, comparing and contrasting their business models. Why did companies gain greater CSR? For brand image, pressure from society, planning ahead?

  • Research what tech companies are currently doing, what companies (probably more based in manufacturing) have done in the past

  • Effect of switch from manufacturing industries to tech industries, rise in inequality of income

  • The specific ways tech industries may be harming people (gentrification, inequality, etc) and ways they can mitigate it, or help in unrelated ways

 

 

Searchable thematic keywords (concepts):

 

  • Corporate accountability/morality

  • Corporate social responsibility

  • Corporate citizenship

  • Social enterprise

  • Capitalism

  • Technology and Power

  • Corporate power

  • Social capitalism

  • Privacy versus protection

  • Corporate governance

  • Philanthropic brand image

  • Corporate marketing tactics

  • Private Sector

 

 

The thoughtful questions I’d like to explore:

 

  • How have the economic/social/political systems in the U.S. created the rise of mighty technology companies, and to what extent should these corporations be held accountable for the inequality and other effects occurring alongside and because of them?

Annotated Bibliography
 

Kerlin, Janelle A. “A Comparative Analysis of the Global Emergence of Social Enterprise.” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, vol. 21, no. 2, 2010, pp. 162–179. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27928210.

 

This article by Janelle A Kerlin is about social enterprises, the ways they effect change, and the ways these social enterprises differ across countries. It adds a way of thinking about how a corporation's business can be built around creating social change, rather than corporations being inherently detrimental to society or only making a positive impact as a side goal. 

 

This article is useful because it looks at how social enterprises are not created in just one way, but rather can be vastly different based on the society they come from. This indicates that there is significant leeway in how a social enterprise can function, leaving room for creativity and new ways to think about how social enterprises can work in and for our society. I find it very persuasive, as it describes successful social enterprises and how they vary, using concrete examples.

 

De Colle, Simone, et al. “The Paradox of Corporate Social Responsibility Standards.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 125, no. 2, 2014, pp. 177–191., www.jstor.org/stable/24033226.

 

This article by Simone De Colle criticizes corporate social responsibility, saying it creates a paradox, as CSR can create a thoughtless and blind mindset that undermines its goals. Since companies are supposed to be for-profit, any actions that are not for-profit are detrimental to the company, and aren’t carried out with enough consideration. This contradicts a lot of sources pushing for CSR, so it would be interesting to engage the opposite point of view. 

 

This article is useful because it views CSR negatively, arguing it does not meet the goals it intends to, and suggests some ways we could look at and develop CSR differently to avoid the negative effects it may otherwise bring. This is something I hadn’t really considered before, as CSR is almost always described in a positive light, as companies giving back to society. However, it seems that even if a company has good intentions, they may not be helping solve problems with their interference. I think it is pretty persuasive, as it brings up the valid point that CSR must be done carefully, as any policy must, in order to have the intended effect.

 

Buccholz, Rogene A., and Sandra B. Rosenthal. “Technology and Business: Rethinking the Moral Dilemma.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 41, no. 1/2, 2002, pp. 45–50. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25074905.

 

This article by Rogene A Buccholz argues that corporations, since they are primarily interested in economic goals, neglect safety and practicality of technology. It says this is a structural problem inherent in the capitalist system, and one way to solve it is to encourage engineers' whistleblowing. This is an interesting idea to consider: is there an inherent connection between something being profit-driven and being immoral?

 

This article is useful because author approaches the topic with the assumption that businesses tend to be immoral, while individual engineers in them tend to be moral. Technology is seen as creating a moral dilemma and a tension between businesses and the engineers in them, which is a different view than the other articles. I don’t know if I am entirely persuaded by the argument, but I do think it is a concern some people may have, and thus is important to address.

 

Morfit, Simon. “What Does Corporate Social Responsibility Mean for the Technology Sector?” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3 Oct. 2014, ssir.org/articles/entry/what_does_corporate_social_responsibility_mean_for_the_technology_sector.

 

This article by Simon Morfit talked about how Corporate Social Responsibility in tech companies is generally fashioned like manufacturing CSR, as it used to be big manufacturing companies in power, so they led the development of CSR. However, Morfit argues that the unique position and inherent capabilities of the tech industry position it so it can help in different and bigger ways. It uses evidence of what companies are currently doing, such as Google, sf.citi, and Cloudera.

 

It was very useful, as it widened the scope of analyzing CSR: now, the question isn’t only if CSR is good or bad, and whether it should be implemented, but also how it could be implemented. There are a variety of different CSR tactics, and many more that we could devise, and each one could have varying effects, so we need to evaluate what makes a good CSR initiative, and what makes a CSR initiative beneficial and effective, then come up with some policy ideas. I found it very persuasive, as it’s true that for this new era of tech, we should have new CSR initiatives, driven by the same innovation and creativity that made tech grow.

 

 

Pratap, Abhijeet. “CSR and Sustainability in the Technology Industry.” Cheshnotes, 8 Oct. 2018, www.cheshnotes.com/2017/10/csr-sustainability-technology-industry/.

 

This article by Abhijeet Pratap described how environmental responsibility is huge in the tech industry, as many big tech companies like Google are devoted to it. It describes how it’s actually profitable to be environmentally friendly, as it leads to higher energy efficiency and less consumptions and costs, helping both Google’s profit margins and the environment. He also uses examples from Amazon and Microsoft to illustrate CSR initiatives. It also describes other CSR initiatives tech companies are pursuing, besides just environmental responsibility, such as investment in education and infrastructure.

 

This is useful as a jumping off point for CSR initiative assessment and brainstorming, as it describes what companies are already doing, so I can see how effective it is, and what else they could go into. It also would be a good way to see how CSR initiatives can tie back into company functionings to make the company itself more effective, rather than just doing good as a side note, how can we choose CSR initiatives that benefit the company itself? I find it very persuasive because it uses clear examples from companies to illustrate its argument.

 

Singer, Natasha. “The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America's Schools.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/technology/tech-billionaires-education-zuckerberg-facebook-hastings.html.

 

This article by Natasha Singer describes how Silicon Valley billionaires are reinventing the school system by using their funds and influence to apply start-up techniques to education. However, this interference is largely unchecked, and implemented fast, with little data validating its effects. Students are essentially turned into guinea pigs for billionaires to test on.

 

This is a good example of CSR gone potentially wrong. Billionaires want to help, but they’re experts in running a company, not in education. Their skill set is not necessarily transferrable. So I need to explore how companies can, if at all, help alleviate problems in education and other areas without overstepping. How can companies ensure they are helping, not hurting, communities? I find it fairly persuasive, from a common-sense point of view, start up techniques may not work in education, and it's concerning that there isn't more oversight on these new policies and programs, as it could be detrimental to the students.

 

BÉNABOU, ROLAND, and JEAN TIROLE. “Individual and Corporate Social Responsibility.” Economica, vol. 77, no. 305, 2010, pp. 1–19. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27764393.

 

This paper by Roland Benabou and Jean Tirole is about corporate social responsibility as a way to mitigate market and redistributive failures. Corporations should be responsible for the effects they have on society because the government hasn’t done enough to reduce inequality, enforce environmental regulations, and redistribute wealth. If companies acted socially responsible, they would become another form of government that solves social issues where the government has failed.

 

This is an interesting point of view, and brings a whole new dimension to my research. It claims that corporations are responsible not only for the damages they cause, but also for society as a whole. In terms of the damages they cause, the relatively recent technology industry has greatly increased inequality, raising incomes of the .01% and .001%, so is it thus responsible for undoing some of the inequality it caused by redistribution? And in terms of being responsible for society as a whole, should it not just undo the inequality it caused but also do more to promote equal opportunity and environmental regulation? I find it fairly persuasive, CSR can mitigate market and redistributive failures and could do a lot of good in that, however, the article doesn't address the issue of companies having too much power, which could be a big problem. 

 

L'Etang, Jacquie. “Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility: Some Issues Arising.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 13, no. 2, 1994, pp. 111–123. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25072512.

 

This paper by Jacquie L’Etang questions whether CSR is beneficial and whether corporations can be trusted to enact them. It brings up the point that CSR efforts are mostly environmental, rather than social, which could indicate that CSR programs are reactionary, responding to pressures rather than out of real responsibility or morality.

 

This is useful because it is an interesting point of view, as many believe corporations need to enact CSR to make up for damages corporations may have caused, but this article argues that perhaps CSR initiative are not beneficial to society, at least the way they are structured now. It also emphasizes that CSR initiatives have been mostly reactionary, so it begs the question of whether corporations have changed their ways, how we can get corporations to change CSR initiatives and what they should be changed to, and whether they should have CSR efforts in the first place. I find it very persuasive, as it is backed by historical evidence that companies tend to pursue CSR initiatives out of societal pressure, and that we might not necessarily be able to trust corporations to enact beneficial and effective CSR on their own.