Thursday, 1 July 2010
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is both misunderstood and a pile of fucking shite. Starting with the misunderstanding, this stems from its origins and ends being so poorly known. Rather than being an even remotely shiny new thing, CSR originates in paternalistic management practices dating back to the nineteenth century. Back then, rather than however many over-ambitious middle managers jetting off to Malawi to build a new toilet block for refugees, CSR was about employers providing company housing, company shops, company retirement homes, company swimming baths, company libraries, company bandstands, company doodlydads etc., etc., the key word throughout being company i.e. when you worked for a company (some companies at least), your entire life was spent in company premises of one sort or another. Hence doing anything that threatened your job with said company was also a threat to you and your family’s entire way of life cos if you weren’t working for the man you certainly weren’t living in the man’s house.
CSR then originated in deliberate efforts by employers to impose an all encompassing managerial discipline and authority. In the case of say Cadburys or Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight, it also entailed imposing actually quite lovely notions as to how lives should be lived, but still it was a thing being imposed as opposed to free will etc. Except then the post war settlement with all its redrawing of the lines between public and private provision and mucho more council housing and welfare state and subsequent full employment suddenly fucked things up – you could tell the gaffer to fuck himself safe in the knowledge you’d still have a home to go back to.
You could argue this was the end of paternalism and as such claim there was a disconnect with the CSR shite we have today, except paternalism had always involved both ”soft” and “hard” objectives and its that distinction that’s still with us today. The hard were and are the easy to spot, obvious things. Like in much the same way that a company built a swimming pool expected fitter, more hygienic workers (and was also tacitly telling the state to fuck off when it came round asking for higher taxes to pay for houses with toilets), so today when a company sponsors an art exhibition it expects 100 free tickets to a private viewing where it can woo new and existing companies - and you bet they’ll get them given CSR is now a full-time pretendy profession with full time CSR experts and managers and what not all desperately trying to justify their existence by pointing out the bottom line benefits of whatever it is they do.
If the “hard” is about the readily measurable; the “soft” by contrast is the never ending and elusive quest for legitimacy and authenticity. Here the only meaningful difference between Victorian Gradgrinds and today’s corporate champions is what’s being legitimised. Back in the day the emphasis was on control and managerial authority and all the structured inequality that entailed when it came to the distribution of economic outcomes. Nowadays it’s still about legitimising, but of whatever it is the business coughing up to sponsor an art exhibition does to make money.
Take BP fer instance – piss oil allova Americans? Not necessarily a bad thing given how much they shite on everyone else, but that aside, ignore the environmental fuck ups and concentrate on all the lovely art they sponsor and the extent to which that proves BP is a cultured muthafucka of an organisation that routinely contribute to the moral and cultural life of Britain. In fact if you’re so inclined you could even read Noreena Hertz’s latest article on fuck knows and, ignoring any car rental references, latch on to her as the half-witted pan piper ideologue arguing in favour of a status quo wherein Bono and BP should be left free to spend a teeny tiny fraction of their tax efficient fortunes on patronising darkies.
Alternatively you could get real. Every public organisation and institution that puts out banners and adverts associating a corporate sponsor with something cultural should be obliged to also acknowledge the fact the vast majority of its funding comes from taxpayers and as a result oblige it to hold a parallel lottery wherein every month a taxpayer gets the chance to (a) win an exclusive night when he or she (and friends and family) has a private viewing and (b) gets a picture of him or her plastered all over the place.
As for the sponsors, every time a team of marketing managers are sent to Malawi to build a new toilet block the company they work for should be obliged to issue a public statement explaining why simply asking the volunteers to give up a single day’s pay and then handing that over to pay for actual local builders to do the exact same thing only much more effectively and without the additional cost of flights and accommodation wasn’t the better option.
And ooh, ooh Christopher Hitchens has cancer. Does that mean the Left needs a new, favourite bourgeois, pointless waste of space ornament to lionise? And will the “hitch” produce a diary of his treatment of the sort Christopher Morris satirised years ago? Who fucking cares, it’s the Grauniad equivalent of Jordan and Peter Andre’s latest Heat article iz all.
Back to actual real stuff. Yer man here knows whats what when it comes to the corporate paternalism or at least he used to before the Welcome Trust fucked up what constituted historical research in Britain. And the weird fucked up pic attached to this post I found when I googled CSR is supposed to represent CSR how exactly? Stupid cunts.