The Enigma of the ‘Responsible’ Corporation

Professor Dirk Matten, Schulich School of Business, York University (Canada)

Co-presented with the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney Business School and the Sydney Environment Institute

Date: Tuesday 18 February 2014

Corporations are conceived as legal persons that engage in the combination of production factors with the goal of providing a maximum return to those who provided the money to make this happen in the first place. At least that is the legal structure they have in most parts of the global economy.

However, looking at how corporations now present themselves provides a puzzling picture. In their self-representations, corporations appear very concerned with their responsibility to society; their contribution to global warming, their impact on indigenous populations, and a lot more issues. This contrasts with their initial remit of just ‘making money’. Corporations, which should just care about profits and economics, appear to have suddenly turned into ‘do gooders’.

In this lecture Dirk Matten examines the history of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and look at three important questions. Why has it emerged? What has it really achieved? And, what is the future of corporate engagement with societal needs?

Dirk Matten

Professor Dirk Matten holds the Hewlett-Packard Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility and is a Professor of Strategy at the Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto. He is also a Visiting Professor at the University of London, the University of Nottingham and at Sabancý University in Istanbul. He has taught and researched at academic institutions in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Turkey, and the USA.

His work has appeared in journals including Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, British Journal of Management, The Geneva Papers and Human Relations. His 14 books and more than 100 articles have won numerous international awards including the Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award of the Academy of Management Conference. He also won the “Max Weber Award” of the Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft for his bestselling textbook on Business Ethics (with Andy Crane, OUP). He is on the editorial board of many journals including Business Ethics Quarterly. Dirk enjoys occasionally consulting multinational companies and is on the board of several NGOs. He has worked more than three years in industry and prior to taking up an academic post in the UK in 1999, was a Senior Consultant with the Frankfurt based consultancy firm Newmark & Partners. He was recently ranked among the ‘Top 100 CSR Leaders’ in an independent poll by CSR International.

Professor Matten’s visit is sponsored by the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney Business School