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Edited by Joanne B. Ciulla and Tobey K. Scharding
Joanne B. Ciulla and Tobey K. Scharding
These are troubling times on both sides of the Atlantic. Immigration, Brexit, terrorism, the financial crisis, the election of Donald Trump, and the emergence of nationalism in the US and Europe have created ethical challenges for business leaders as well as most others. Populist political leaders have tapped into the feelings of voters who have been ignored by leaders, left behind during globalization, replaced at work by new technologies, and disheartened by social legislation in areas such as gay marriage and abortion. While some citizens in the US and Europe believed that the world was getting better, others silently watched in dismay. Meanwhile, we also see an increase in xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia. The increasingly polarized political environment has made it difficult for leaders to reach a consensus about how to best tackle pressing questions about immigration, human rights, the environment, and the regulation of business and new technologies. This is a challenging environment, one where business leaders may sometimes be called upon to decide where they stand. In a speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn’t working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up” (Sorkin, 2017). His comment raises a cluster of foundational questions about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the role of business in turbulent times: Who should be responsible for what in a society? What are the responsibilities of businesses and business leadership to society? Moreover, do the responsibilities of businesses increase when there are social and political problems? And finally, what does it mean for a business to “step up”?