Behind the Mask: Revealing the True Face of Corporate Citizenship

Posted: 18 Jan 2010 Last revised: 17 Jun 2012

See all articles by Dirk Matten

Dirk Matten

York University - Schulich School of Business

Wendy Chapple

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Andrew Crane

University of Bath - School of Management

Date Written: January 15, 2010

Abstract

This paper traces the development of corporate citizenship as a way of framing business and society relations, and critically examines the content of contemporary understandings of the term. These conventional views of corporate citizenship are argued to contribute little or nothing to existing notions of corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. The paper then proposes a new direction, which particularly exposes the element of "citizenship". Being a political concept, citizenship can only be reasonably understood from that theoretical angle. This suggests that citizenship consists of a bundle of rights conventionally granted and protected by governments of states. However, the more that governmental power and sovereignty have come under threat, the more that relevant political functions have gradually shifted towards the corporate sphere - and it is at this point where "corporate" involvement into "citizenship" becomes an issue.

Consequently, "corporate citizens" are substantially more than fellow members of the same community who cozily rub shoulders with other fellow citizens while bravely respecting those other citizens' rights and living up to their own responsibility as corporations - as the conventional rhetoric wants us to believe. Behind this relatively innocuous mask then, the true face of corporate citizenship suggests that the corporate role in contemporary citizenship is far more profound, and ultimately in need of urgent reappraisal.

Keywords: business and government, corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, globalization, human rights, stakeholder theory

Suggested Citation

Matten, Dirk and Chapple, Wendy and Crane, Andrew, Behind the Mask: Revealing the True Face of Corporate Citizenship (January 15, 2010). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 45, No. 1/2, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1537321

Dirk Matten

York University - Schulich School of Business ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

Wendy Chapple

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Andrew Crane (Contact Author)

University of Bath - School of Management ( email )

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.bath.ac.uk/management/faculty/andrew-crane.html

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