Corporate Conformism

Corporate Conformism

Saura Masconale, Simone Sepe

Series number :

Serial Number: 
568/2021

Date posted :

March 03 2021

Last revised :

March 16 2021
SSRN Share

Keywords

  • Corporate Social Responsibility • 
  • asset pricing • 
  • moral pluralism • 
  • Democracy • 
  • corporate voting

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gone mainstream. Over a quarter of total assets under management are now invested in socially responsible companies. Likewise, the global demand for sustainable products continues to rise.

This growing “demand for corporate morality” has prompted new optimism among scholars about corporations’ ability to cater to both our economic and moral preferences. However, while scholars agree that the production of “moral goods” may benefit society as a whole, they continue to disagree on whether it can be reconciled with economic efficiency.

This Article suggests that the real cost of CSR is not economic but democratic. When a morality demand is introduced in competitive markets, there is no profitable deviation at the equilibrium for corporations as producers of moral goods, as not engaging in CSR would make them less competitive. This equilibrium prediction dispels concerns about economic efficiency—but implies a warning against the risk of “corporate conformism” and a loss of pluralism. This risk is a by-product of the divisive nature of moral goods, as a reflection of individuals’ often conflicting moral preferences. Attempting to capture a larger demand, corporations conform to the morality of the capitalist majority, even though it might represent just a minority of individuals. This threatens moral pluralism, potentially explaining why CSR engagement presently tends to have an almost exclusively progressive connotation.

There are no easy answers to cure CSR’s overlooked democratic dysfunction, but we conclude by attempting to identify the several tough questions that need to be asked to that end.

Authors

Real name:
Saura Masconale
Real name:
Research Member
The University of Arizona; Université Toulouse-I-Capitole - Toulouse School of Economics; American College of Covernance Council