Everywhere business creates wealth, there is a chorus imploring firms to respond to community needs, large and small. The most urgent, at times strident, calls are addressed to multinational enterprises (MNEs). CEOs of multinationals are told repeatedly that they have a special obligation to society to use their firms’ assets, global reach, and unique skills to address the challenges of poverty, illness, and human rights violations in innovative ways. They are also reminded with equal fervor that if the satisfaction of helping to make the world a better place were not sufficient incentive, that their firms’ commitment to social action will be rewarded by lasting customer loyalty and profits.
For the most part, CEOs agree. Moreover, given the magnitude of the world’s ills and pandemic dissatisfaction with government, they understand, and may even feel honored that governments, NGOs, and other civil society groups turn to the business community for resources and solutions. Not surprisingly, social action and CSR are embraced by all – investors, management, employees, governments, NGOs, the press, and academics like ourselves.