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  • Cited by 93
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2012
Print publication year:
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Book description

This thought-provoking history of corporate responsibility in the USA is a landmark publication documenting the story of corporate power and business behavior from the mid-eighteenth century to the modern day. It shows how the idea of corporate responsibility has evolved over time, with the roles, responsibilities and performance of corporations coming increasingly under the spotlight as new norms of transparency and accountability emerge. Today, it is expected that a corporation will be transparent in its operations; that it will reflect ethical values that are broadly shared by others in society; and that companies will enable society to achieve environmental sustainability as well as a high standard of living. As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, the social, political and economic landscape is once again shifting: the need for an informed public conversation about what is expected of the modern corporation has never been greater.


Winner of the 2014 Best Book Award, Social Issues in Management Division, Academy of Management


‘This amazing book provides a terrific overview of the emergence and development of the ways that businesses have both responded to public pressures for taking on more responsibilities and, in some instances, abrogated those very responsibilities. It is a tale that has been waiting a long time to be told and should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand the context in which today’s corporate responsibility paradigm has arisen. The four authors’ voices blend perfectly to create a stunning panorama sweeping over 200 years, focusing on both the flaws and the greatness of corporations in America today.’

Sandra Waddock - Galligan Chair of Strategy and Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility, Boston College

‘The team has done readers an invaluable service by providing sweeping historical perspective that enables us to understand the modern corporate responsibility movement. Anyone who wants to understand the state of play today - and where sustainability is likely to go in the future - would do well to read this book.’

Aron Cramer - President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility, San Francisco

‘Corporate Responsibility is the most comprehensive study available on the history of corporate social responsibility in the United States. The volume covers both academic research and business practice. Both scholars of corporate responsibility and business people will find this volume to be a treasured resource.’

Norman Bowie - Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota

‘Corporate Responsibility is a powerful treatise on the obligations of corporations to serve the society that charters them. Enlightened leaders have long recognized corporations cannot ignore the consequences to society. Making money and creating shared value must go hand-in-hand, as Ken Goodpaster and his colleagues make abundantly clear in this brilliantly researched and beautifully written book. It is a must read for anyone concerned about the future of capitalism in our society.’

Bill George - Harvard Business School, former CEO of Medtronic, and author of True North

‘Corporate Responsibility describes the changing nature of how the corporation has been viewed through history, particularly as an evolving dialogue within society. The book highlights that things have not always been as they are now, nor is the present our destiny. This comprehensive book is essential to understand how we navigate some of the most contentious debates about the relationship between business and society.’

Rakesh Khurana - Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Harvard Business School

‘This is the history both scholars and students of business have been waiting for! The rise of the modern corporation has shaped American identity and politics from the days of the industrial revolution. The authors deftly and compellingly tell the story, capturing both the resilience of capitalism and our uneasy relationship with its excesses and powers. The central question they pose is critical to our future: ‘what is the purpose of business and to whom is it accountable?’’

Judith Samuelson - Executive Director, Business and Society Program, Aspen Institute

‘An in-depth examination of the 300-year history of society’s ever-changing view of the responsibilities of the modern corporation from four of the very best academic thinkers.’

Steve Lydenberg - Founding Director, Initiative for Responsible Investment, Harvard University

‘This in-depth study of the history of CSR elevates the academic discourse around this concept. Skeptics take note: societal expectation of business is not a wholly novel, modern idea. From the Social Gospel to the formation of labor groups, social, economic, and political factors over 200 years have grounded our ever-evolving notion of the duty of companies to society. This book brings the reader to this important conclusion: ‘it is not about if a company becomes involved in society. It is now about the how!’’

Carol L. Cone - Global Practice Chair, Business and Social Purpose, Edelman

'This book should be required reading for aspiring executives and those who teach them. This superb history shows how shifting norms in a global world have made corporate responsibility both radical and requisite in modern business. Through the lens of corporate responsibility you can see not simply the evolution of the corporation in past but the trajectory of the international economy in the future.'

Christopher McKenna - Said Business School, University of Oxford

'This book is a masterful and thoughtful survey of the historical development of American capitalism and the concomitant development of the question of its responsibility for more than just immediate financial results.'

Kimberly A. Zahller Source: International Journal of Accounting

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