Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is the Tea Party actually the CSR Party?

The Tea Party’s popularity has been interpreted in a variety of ways, but we should consider one more- the tea party as a call for corporate restraint. In this way, the Tea Party and the CSR movement share important principles, perhaps more than you’d expect.

  • Desire for governmental reform: The Tea Party looks for large scale government downsizing and reform. The need for CSR results from a lack of effective regulation of corporations. There is common ground- the desire for more effective laws and regulation, rather than just more laws and regulation. CSR is important because the government fails to adequately protect the public from corporate harm, which the Tea Party seems to agree with.
  • Against government control: Tea Party members are obsessed with personal liberty; in this way, they join corporations. Oftentimes corporations create CSR programs to preempt, and hopefully stave off, government regulation. CSR, when acting as self regulation, is a necessary requirement to safely scale back government regulation of industry.
  • Anger over corporate bailouts: The tea party is incensed over the 2008-9 bailouts of the financial and automotive sectors. None of these bailouts would have been necessary had effective, comprehensive CSR programs been in place. CSR regimes would have discouraged the recklessness in the financial sector as a betrayal of stakeholder (and shareholders), and may have stemmed the overinvestment in environmentally harmful vehicles like the Hummer that later became a cash vacuum for GM.
  • Anger over lost jobs and health care: The Tea Party has formed partly as an outlet for intense public frustration over the recession’s casualties: jobs, and healthcare obtained through jobs. Sustainable businesses are those that consider success on social issues as competitively important as net income, one of which is worker well being. Businesses with strong CSR cut jobs as a last resort, after streamlining every other aspect of business possible, including C-level pay. The transparency that accompanies CSR standards also helps to ensure that jobs that are cut have to be.
  • Grassroots action: The Tea Party has been resounding demonstration of the success of grassroots action. In this way, they have a lot to hope for through CSR, in which corporations engage in discourse and solution building with grassroots organizations.

Obviously, the Tea Party and CSR diverge in key areas. The Tea Party thinks that climate change is a conspiracy; most corporations with CSR programs are working to reduce their contribution to climate change. The Tea Party represents a wing of the most conservative of conservatives, the CSR movement in has grown from liberal activists with business acumen. Yet there are so many important points of overlap that hopefully a siloh-busting leader can unify Tea Party members and CSR advocates for maximum enhancement of the public good.

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