Communicating progress on meeting the United Nations Global Compact goals : an analysis of the South African experience

Malan, Daniel ; Ungerer, Marius (2017)

CITATION: Malan, D. & Ungerer, M. 2017. Communicating progress on meeting the United Nations Global Compact goals : an analysis of the South African experience. African Journal of Business Ethics, 11(2):1‑18, doi:10.15249/11-2-158.

The original publication is available at http://ajobe.journals.ac.za

Article

The purpose of business has been a consistent focus area in the field of corporate responsibility (CR). This article examines public disclosures on CR made by South African signatories to the United Nations Global Compact, with reference to recent contributions on the purpose of business. Over time, the focus of CR has shifted from an internal corporate to a broader systemic perspective, reflecting the view that the responsibility of corporations cannot be addressed in isolation. In terms of purpose, Porter and Kramer present Creating Shared Value (CSV) as a way to reinvent capitalism. Donaldson and Walsh argue that what counts as value for a single firm is not the same as value for business in general, and propose a world where collective value is optimized. Corporations have to confront global challenges with commitment and innovation. If they can do so successfully it will be in their own interest and also in the interest of the planet. It is frequently argued that – in addition – it will be the right thing to do from a moral perspective. The use of “in addition” is significant: it illustrates one of the key conceptual challenges to understanding the (perceived) tension between the business case and the moral case for corporate responsibility. “In addition” implies that the business case and the moral case are separate, but that, if they are aligned, there would be no tension. It is argued that the traditional resolution of this tension – enlightened self-interest –is both superficial and flawed. It is proposed that more corporate support for CR based on a normative foundation should be encouraged, and that the concept of Optimized Collective Value is an appropriate way to achieve this.

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