Corporate Social Responsibility After Disaster

44 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2011 Last revised: 9 Jul 2012

See all articles by Susan S. Kuo

Susan S. Kuo

University of South Carolina - Law Library

Benjamin Means

University of South Carolina School of Law

Date Written: April 22, 2011


The corporate social responsibility debate asks whether the managers of large, publicly traded corporations may sacrifice profits to pursue other socially valuable goals. Most scholars contend that the dominant role of corporations in society is to maximize value for shareholders and that managers have a fiduciary obligation to put shareholder interests first. However, progressive scholars argue that public corporations receive special benefits from the state and therefore owe a broader responsibility to society.

This Article contends that the standard story of corporate social responsibility is incomplete because it leaves out the role of smaller, locally owned businesses. In the context of disaster recovery, the omission is especially glaring. Although large corporations can contribute economic resources, longā€term community recovery depends upon the rebuilding of social capital. Local business owners live where their customers live and business ties overlap with other networks (school, church, recreation) that together form the fabric of a place. Thus, business decisions are embedded in a context of community connections and reciprocal obligations. Moreover, the visible commitment of local business can have a social as well as an economic consequence - providing a critical signal that the community will be restored.

A vision of corporate social responsibility and disaster recovery that focuses on the economic capital of large, public corporations overlooks the importance of bottom-up efforts by local business owners. Accordingly, by providing a fuller account of the social dynamics that influence economic decision making, we seek to extend the corporate social responsibility debate to include locally owned business. By broadening the corporate responsibility discussion, we highlight the vital role of locally owned business in comprehensive disaster planning.

Keywords: disaster law, corporate social responsibility, vulnerability, social capital, agency costs, locally owned business

Suggested Citation

Kuo, Susan S. and Means, Benjamin, Corporate Social Responsibility After Disaster (April 22, 2011). Washington University Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 5, 2012, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-24, Available at SSRN: or

Susan S. Kuo (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Law Library ( email )

1525 Senate St.
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Benjamin Means

University of South Carolina School of Law ( email )

1525 Senate Street, Room 314
Columbia, SC 29208
United States
(803) 777-3616 (Phone)


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