The caring enterprise : a sociology of corporate social involvement in Britain and Italy
This thesis examines corporate social responsibility initially in Britain, where there has recently been a conspicuous growth of interest in business social involvement, and Italy. Corporate social responsibility is defined here as business engagement in the wider community in order to contribute towards the general well-being of society. Our analysis employs a hybrid methodology: we employ a variety of sources, namely, historical texts, secondary studies and detailed case studies of corporate social programmes based on in-depth interviews of relevant personnel and the study of company documents. Our aim in this study is to provide a general explanation of why companies go beyond their commercial remit to become engaged in communitarian and philanthropic action. A socially and politically informed analysis is furnished: we place this area in its historical and political context, without losing sight of the role played by economic forces. Any explanation of contemporary advances in corporate social responsibility needs to stress the role of the modern state in society, and, more specifically, the development of relations between the state and the business community. It is argued that, in Britain, as a response to the political and economic crisis of the 1970s, the links between the business and state sectors became ever closer. This, as we shall demonstrate, created the institutional opportunities for active business involvement in society in areas such as environmental protection, small firm development and urban regeneration. Italy has seen less political impetus given to active corporate involvement in society. The most significant achievements, though, have come from within the state sector. A final consideration of our social analysis is that we attempt to analyse the contribution of the private sector to wider society. This is especially pertinent because, in Britain, corporate responsibility has come to be seen as a private solution to public problems. We show, using original case study material, that there are limits to what companies can achieve on a social front. We conclude that corporate social responsibility must emphasise the need for companies to observe social and legal restrictions in their pursuit of commercial goals, rather than necessarily engaging actively in social action.