Milton Friedman very famously argued in the 1970s in the New York Times Magazine that the Social Responsibility of Business is to increase its profit. However, such aspiration seems to be having a turning point.
Microsoft has announced that it will solve cancer within 10 years by treating this disease like a computer virus that can be solved by cracking the code. On the other hand, Facebook founder Zuckerberg and his wife have also announced that will aim to tackle all disease by 2100. The plans of the movements not only include increasing funding for research but also bringing scientists and engineers together, generating new technology and cultivating a new movement to fund health research around the world.
This might suggest that Corporations have found strong incentives in the implementation of policies in order to promote welfare in Society. It might be argued that Corporations now feel more autonomy in the decisions of social distributions and that they are starting to recognize their social obligations in Society in the 21st century.
However, critics might also suggest that such actions should not be interpreted in that way. At the end, Corporations are provided with many incentives by Governments such as the reduction of taxes, and this in turn, encourage Businesses to focus more on profitability rather than in the generation of benefits to society.
The Corporate Social Responsibility paradigm entails that Businesses are created to serve a purpose in Society that include not only the generation of profits but also the generation of a positive impact on the environment and society through high quality products. This in turn will generate long-term profits that will also improve the reputation of businesses.
At the end, the debate is about the aim of Corporations, should Businesses be concentrated only in the generation of profits or Corporate Social Responsibilities that will provide them with many benefits in the long term. This is certainly a debate that should be analyzed from the perspective of Justice, about the right thing to do. Do we help others because is the right thing to do, because we care about others, or perhaps because after doing some calculation, more money will be generated at the lowest cost with the aim of maximizing happiness of Society in the long term?.
What is true is that we live in a world that is characterized by conflict and the risks and transforming society requires not only the effort of governments and its institutions, but also, a strong intervention from the private sector. This type of initiatives should be encouraged, despite its criticisms. Society in general should motivate corporations to follow this type of initiatives while crucially monitoring constantly its actions.
The movement from the State of Nature to a Civil Society requires individuals and Corporations to integrate ethical principles into their actions. Without these principles conflicts unavoidably will arise. At the end, Corporate Social Responsibility should not be only about purpose but also about morality.