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Working Papers

Corporate Social Responsibility: The Shape of a History, 1945-2004 (PDF format)

Overview: This initial working paper, prepared by CEBC staff in 2005, anticipated the CEBC History of Corporate Responsibility project. The paper provides a thoughtful framework for exploring the history of the field and suggests different lenses through which the history might be explored. Included are brief discussions of several key developments post-World War II pertinent to corporate responsibility, indications of the scope and range of topics within the scope of corporate responsibility, numerous definitions of corporate responsibility or social responsibility drawn from various business and academic sources, a preliminary bibliography, potential organizational contact points, and a brief overview of current issues and debates in the field. The paper also includes a tentative timeline of developments.

Board and Top Management Changes over the Decades: Responses to Governance and CSR Issues (PDF format)

    Jill A. Brown, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Management
    College of Business and Economics
    Lehigh University
    currently, Associate Professor of Management at Bentley University

Overview: This paper is a broad review of how boards of directors and top management teams have made changes over the decades in response to corporate social responsibility pressures and expectations. These changes have taken place in several areas: 1) in the organization, composition and structure of these groups, 2) in changing reporting relationships between the management, the board, and other stakeholders; and 3) in various initiatives that facilitate the interaction of internal and external stakeholders. While over the decades boards have developed infrastructures to actively embrace their responsibilities to their stakeholders, they are still challenged with managing their relationships with the CEO and the top management team through cycles of social, economic and political turbulence. Examination of board/top management team changes shows the possibility of a temporal pattern of reaction to governance and CSR pressures.

Corporate Responsibility at Corning Incorporated (PDF format)

Margaret B. W. Graham, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Desautels Faculty of Management
McGill University
Email: NA

Overview: This working paper explores the evolution of Corning Incorporated (never Corning Inc.) relating to corporate responsibility and the reasons behind that evolution in management and practice. Over the nearly 160 years of the company’s existence, Corning was not an unwavering paragon of responsible behavior in all aspects of what is traditionally termed CSR, but neither was it the kind of mimetic enterprise portrayed by institutional theorists relative to its industry and competitors. Corning’s leaders were becoming intentional in their attitudes toward some aspects of CSR even before World War One. How they became concerned and intentional when they did, and why they made the choices they made, is the substance of this account. Most of the policies Corning adopted were “age-appropriate” for the type of company it was at the time as the company grew from a small niche producer in upstate NY to a global corporation.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Small Businesses and Small Towns (PDF format)

Terry L. Besser, Ph.D. and Susan K. Jarnagin, Ph.D.

    Terry L. Besser, Ph.D.
    Department of Sociology
    Iowa State University (Ames, IA)

Overview: This paper focuses on business social responsibility as it is manifested by small businesses and businesses in small towns. The term “business social responsibility” is used instead of the more common term, “corporate social responsibility,” in order to expand the frame of reference to all for-profit businesses, not only corporations. The paper is organized as follows. It begins by explaining why small businesses and small towns are important for business social responsibility. The authors then develop a conceptual framework as a way to organize, and provide a vocabulary for, the review of the literature on small town and small business social responsibility that follows. The authors then consider antecedents and consequences of business social responsibility for small businesses and businesses in small towns. Finally, the state of knowledge on this subject and identify issues for future research is discussed.

Law and the History of Corporate Responsibility (PDF format)

    Lyman Johnson, JD
    Laurence and Jean LeJeune Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law
    Robert O. Bentley Professor of Law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law

Overview: This working paper focuses on the role of law in the history of corporate responsibility in the U.S. Recourse to the law for setting standards related to corporate conduct and processes has been a frequent dimension in debates about corporate responsibilities. The paper examines ideas and developments in four areas: corporate personhood; corporate purpose; corporate regulation; and corporate governance. Within this framework, the paper explores ways in which the law both reflects and shapes the cultural context in which corporations have evolved and the debates about the responsibilities of the corporation.

Promoting and Honoring Business Giving: The Minnesota Experience (PDF format)

    Jacqueline “Jackie” Reis
    Consultant for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, managing Minnesota Business Gives
    Former President of the Minnesota Council on Foundations (1979-2001)
    Email: NA

Overview: Charitable contributions and community involvement has been one hallmark of responsible business and a key element of Minnesota’s national reputation. To capture that story, CEBC commissioned a history of two distinctive programs emblematic of this Minnesota tradition – the Minnesota Keystone Program® and Minnesota Business Gives. In 1976, business leaders launched Keystone (originally the “5% Investment Club”) and in 2005, after a statewide research project, Minnesota Business Gives started working with local chambers around the state. Both celebrate and encourage business giving to address community and social issues. CEBC’s paper charts the background, history and challenges confronting these programs and changes in business practices over the 35 years since Keystone’s inception.

Responsibility, Ethics and American Economic Thought, 1776-1900 (PDF format)

Christopher W. Calvo, Ph.D. Candidate
History Department
Florida International University

Overview: Christopher W. Calvo is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Florida International University (FIU). His dissertation, “An American Political Economy: Industry, Trade, and Finance in the Antebellum Mind” examines American economic thought in the pre-Civil War era. He teaches history at a preparatory school in Miami, Florida. Mr. Calvo wishes to thank Dr. Kenneth J. Lipartito at FIU for his careful readings, advice and suggestions in the course of preparing this working paper.

The Influence of Shareholders on Corporate Social Responsibility (PDF format)

    Katherina Glac, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Ethics and Business Law Department
    Opus College of Business
    University of St. Thomas - Minnesota

Overview: Despite persistence of the image of shareholders as narrow-minded profit maximizers who demand that managers ignore calls for a broader social responsibility of business, shareholders have become some of the most important allies of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. This paper examines the intersection of shareholder engagement and CSR from a historical perspective. It provides background information about two central avenues through which shareholders engage the corporation – shareholder activism and socially responsible investing – and then traces how these avenues have shaped and been shaped by the CSR movement.

The Pre- and Early History American Corporate Philanthropy (PDF format)

Benjamin J. Soskis, Ph.D.
Washington, D.C.

Overview: This essay explores the pre- and early history of corporate philanthropy in the United States, from the mid nineteenth century till the mid-twentieth century, a period that witnessed a slow, halting progression toward the public acceptance of corporate giving. Efforts to win legitimacy for corporate giving required the reconciliation of contending imperatives—to increase a corporation’s profits on behalf of its shareholders and to honor the social responsibilities inherent in the corporate form. The essay demonstrates both the various strategies adopted to secure such a reconciliation, and how precarious that reconciliation often was, as victories on behalf of corporate giving’s legitimacy often triggered various counter-reactions that vitiated some of those victories’ achievements.