One can be forgiven for being confused about corporate social responsibility. In the January 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, some really smart people are questioning whether the Porter/Kramer model of identifying social aspects of your value chain is the right way to go. In what feels like a pandering-to-the-CEO kind of article, the authors say that there's a continuum of social impacts, so whatever CSR you do is fine as long as it's coordinated. And also, please pay our consulting company some money to coordinate it for you.
Poor Milton Friedman. The Nobel Prize-winning economist and Chicago-school anti-Keynesian had a lot of good ideas, and was unmatched at explaining complex economic theories in a way that non-economists could understand. But he keeps getting yanked out of his grave and waved at anybody who even hints that business might have some responsibility to society.
Yesterday, Whole Foods Market Inc. announced that the firm is replacing five of its board members, likely in response to pressure from it’s second largest shareholder, Jana Partners LLC. Whole Foods stock has been underperforming, having lost roughly half its value since it’s 2013 peak of $65 per share. It’s enough to make one wonder if maybe this whole corporate social responsibility thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.