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International Corporate Responsibility Series

Volume 2, 2005

Perspectives On International Corporate Responsibility

James K. Rowe, Ronnie D. Lipschutz
Pages 1-45
DOI: 10.5840/icr2005211

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).

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