Volume 2, 2005
Perspectives On International Corporate Responsibility
James K. Rowe, Ronnie D. Lipschutz
Corporate Codes of Conduct as a Global Business Strategy
We argue that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), particularly corporate codes of conduct, has been one of global business’s preferred strategies for quelling popular discontent with corporate power. By “business strategy” we mean organized responses, through organizations like the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), to the threat that public regulation poses to business’s collective self-interest. Attention to CSR’s historical development reveals it has flourished as discourse and practice at times when corporations became subject to intense public scrutiny. In this essay we outline two periods of corporate crisis, and account for the role codes have played in quieting public concern over increasing corporate power: 1) When developing countries along with Western unions and social activists were calling for a “New International Economic Order” that would more tightly regulate the activity of Transnational Corporations (1960–1976); and 2) When mass anti-globalization demonstrations and high profile corporate scandals are
increasing the demand for regulation (1998–Present).