The Ruffin Series of the Society for Business Ethics

Volume 3, 2002

Ethics and Entrepreneurship

Donna J. Wood
Pages 59-94

Business Citizenship
From Individuals To Organizations

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being supplanted by a new term—corporate citizenship (CC). For many reasons, it’s not a bad idea to replace the CSR term. But the core content of CSR is also gradually being replaced in a significant portion of the literature by a narrower, voluntaristic concept of corporate community service. This is not a viable replacement for the broad ethics-based and problem-solving norms of social reciprocity that are represented by CSR. A more legitimate successor-term is needed so that corporate community relations and philanthropy take their rightful place among the larger set of rights, duties, stakeholder relationships, and opportunities accruing to business organizations. Therefore, we develop a working theory of business citizenship (BC), a more palatable term, and a concept designed to capture the core moral and social content of CSR. In this article we extract and synthesize several key ideas about individual citizenship that have evolved over several thousand years. We then transpose these ideas from the level of individual members of a polity to the level of organizations within society. In a companion article, we extend the business citizenship concept from its single-polity boundaries to the institutional and global levels of analysis. This approach allows a view of business citizenship that accommodates strong moral guidance, structural and institutional realities, and the flexibility necessary to respond to the structures and dynamics of particular company-stakeholder relationships.

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