Corporate Social Responsibility is a way for the CEOs of companies to show their concern for the environment, human rights, their employees and communities as well. They do this not necessarily out of a eco-friendly mindset, but in effort for continued prosperity with the people that makes the corporation successful.

The idea of corporate responsibility to their social environment is not a new one. Corporations have been thinking about this idea for at least a century, since the 1890s in fact, as is shown by Congress as they enacted the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Act was intended to help society at large by allowing smaller companies to be more competitive, and as a result the monopolies were not able to dominate the marketplace.

Many wealthy businessman were making money with business practices that would not be deemed suitable for the 21st century and one man, such named Andrew Carnegie, head of the Carnegie Steel Corporation, wrote to himself that “to continue much longer overwhelmed by business cares, and with the most of my thoughts wholly upon the way to make more money in the shortest time, must degrade me beyond hope of permanent recovery.” He wrote this in a memo to himself and then went back to making more money.

Later, Carnegie in 1901 decided to sell his business and devoted himself to being a philanthropist. Americans can most definitely find value in Carnegie’s words as he exemplifies the American dream sought after by so many as he was a Scottish immigrant and like many others was very poor.

The United States in its pursuit of capitalism has created a system that deifies the pursuit of wealth and any means to get there is worth it. Whether it is at the expense of people, such as in the case of small towns and energy companies drilling for oil and the chemicals they use to get the crude out of the ground. Oil and gas companies aren’t the only ones who do not shy away from rationalizing their actions by saying the end justify the means.

Few people ever acquire the wealth Carnegie obtained and even fewer decide to use it in a socially responsible manner. I hope more American billionaires are willing to do the same. For as long as the system stays the same, where the power and wealth remains with 1% percent of our population, the responsibility of protecting our great nation belongs not only to the average joe but also to the wealthiest joe.

We, the human race, the overwhelming majority at the top of the food chain need a responsible attitude if we are going to survive on this blue earth for hopefully many generations to come. The responsibility I am referring to is the understanding of what comes from our actions, even if those actions are conducted at the behest of a corporation. One such reprehensible action taken by a corporation was that of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries which is owned by the Koch brothers. The company decided it was a good idea to dump tons of toxic waste into the St. John’s river each day. And apparently current Florida governor Rick Scott and former governor Jeb Bush are involved. Once again our government has continuously let the environment of our great nation be corrupted by corporations and the waste they produce.

But as most citizens do not have the ability or funds to undertake the effort to fix the problem, as Ronald A. Williams, CEO of Aetna, has said that “no single group can solve the world’s problems, but public companies can move the collective needle by using their human and financial resources to innovate in ways that benefit both private interests and the public good.” The public need companies as much as the companies need them. We have a vested interest in seeing a company do well. We rely on services from a variety of different companies that make our lives easier everyday. Our trust is placed in these companies to act responsibly when it is regards to their employees, customers, and the environment in which they operate.

The actions of our government show we can’t rely on their help, in the form of legislation, but we as citizens of these United States should endeavor to create change so that we leave our world better off. The sort of change I am talking about isn’t relegated to only our climate and the environment, but every aspect of our daily lives as we may discover new ways to improve our society as a whole through our collective action.

Joseph Dennison
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