Corporate Social Responsibility Through an Economic Lens

26 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2008 Last revised: 1 Dec 2014

Robert N. Stavins

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); Resources for the Future; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Forest L. Reinhardt

Harvard Business School

Richard Vietor

Harvard University - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1, 2008

Abstract

Business leaders, government officials, and academics are focusing considerable attention on the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), particularly in the realm of environmental protection. Beyond complete compliance with environmental regulations, do firms have additional moral or social responsibilities to commit resources to environmental protection? How should we think about the notion of firms sacrificing profits in the social interest? May they do so within the scope of their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders? Can they do so on a sustainable basis, or will the forces of a competitive marketplace render such efforts and their impacts transient at best? Do firms, in fact, frequently or at least sometimes behave this way, reducing their earnings by voluntarily engaging in environmental stewardship? And finally, should firms carry out such profit-sacrificing activities (i.e., is this an efficient use of social resources)? We address these questions through the lens of economics, including insights from legal analysis and business scholarship.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility, voluntary environmental performance, Business and Government Policy, Economics-Microeconomics, Environment and Natural Resources, Law and Legal Institutions, Regulation

JEL Classification: M14, L51, Q50

Suggested Citation

Stavins, Robert N. and Reinhardt, Forest L. and Vietor, Richard, Corporate Social Responsibility Through an Economic Lens (October 1, 2008). HKS Working Paper No. RWP08-023; FEEM Working Paper No. 84.2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1123264 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1123264

Robert N. Stavins (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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617-495-1820 (Phone)
617-496-3783 (Fax)

Resources for the Future

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Forest L. Reinhardt

Harvard Business School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States
617-495-6610 (Phone)

Richard H. K. Vietor

Harvard University - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States
617-495-6460 (Phone)

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