Center for Ethical Business Cultures
Date of this version
corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, corporate philanthropy and ethics
This essay explores the pre- and early history of corporate philanthropy in the United States, from the mid nineteenth century till the mid-twentieth century, a period that witnessed a slow, halting progression toward the public acceptance of corporate giving. Efforts to win legitimacy for corporate giving required the reconciliation of contending imperatives—to increase a corporation’s profits on behalf of its shareholders and to honor the social responsibilities inherent in the corporate form. The essay demonstrates both the various strategies adopted to secure such a reconciliation, and how precarious that reconciliation often was, as victories on behalf of corporate giving’s legitimacy often triggered various counter-reactions that vitiated some of those victories’ achievements.
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