Beschorner 2013a ). Despite the great multiplicity of CSR definitions in the field, there is a broad consensus
about the fact that CSR is not a supplement to business activities but rather an incremental element of a
company’s core business. Indeed, CSR is not about how businesses spend their profits, but rather about how
they make them in the first place. This should have become common currency by now, even in Boston.
Instead, Porter and Kramer re-imagine Corporate Social Responsibility as philanthropy or, in other words, as
a straw man (cf. Beschorner 2013a : 109) in order to make their “big idea” plausible. In a special issue on
CSV, Crane et al. ( 2014 : 134) criticise the authors for this peculiar notion of CSR. Although Porter and
Kramer ( 2014 ) give a response to their critics, they do not bother replying on that particular criticism. To
make it perfectly clear: we think that this approach is inappropriate in terms of research integrity. If students
ignored criticism in similar fashion, they would risk a poor grade. In fact, Porter’s and Kramer’s critique of
CSR hints at how limited the understanding of corporate responsibility still is in mainstream economics. It
seems that not much has changed since Milton Friedman’s famous New York Times Magazine, according to
which CSR is nothing more than philanthropy at the expense of the shareholders (cf. Friedman 1970 ; for a
historical analysis of the article: Hajduk 2015 ).
Likewise, the authors remain trapped in their neoclassical paradigm when it comes to the remainder of their
argumentation. For instance, one-dimensional profit maximization, which CSV has apparently left behind,
remains the normative reference point. It is not only presumed that profit maximization is empirically given –
business needs to maximize profits in a competitive environment – but it is also considered as morally good.
CSV reinforces this normative predefinition by assuming that businesses meet “societal needs” while they are
generating profits. However, the profit motive alone is questionable, because social needs are seen as a mere
means to an end, allowing businesses to discover new market opportunities, to calculate the business case and
to invest profitably. Such businesses would be good rational agents, but this behaviour would have nothing to
do with genuinely responsible, ethical behaviour.
Even in those cases in which a “shared value” for businesses and society is created, in so called “A-Cases”
(cf. Scholz 2014 ), CSV neither reveals anything new nor can it abandon its purely economic perspective.
Crane et al. ( 2014 : 143) and Beschorner (2013a : 110) remind their readers of well-established approaches in
management theory (such as stakeholder theory) that consider businesses to be more than just economic
agents. They refer to stakeholder theory as a case in point. It had been successful because two of its central
premises – business is influenced by society, which is why good management interacts with social groups –
were compatible with a business-centred economic point of view. CSV takes a similar approach when it
responds to societal claims in a purely economic manner. CSV shares a weakness with the stakeholder
approach (Beschorner 2013a : 110): business only caters to “relevant” – i.e. influential and powerful –
stakeholders, but not to other ethically justified claims of “claimholders” (cf. Waxenberger and Spence
2003 ). It therefore fails to achieve true legitimacy.
The economic rationale of the “A-Cases” reaches its limits when a corporation cannot generate any value
because business and social interests either do not go hand in hand or are even opposed to each other. In those
“B-Cases” CSV does not apply, as Scholz (2014 ) emphasises (cf. Scholz and des los Reyes 2015 ). Instead,
Porter and Kramer refer to compliance with “laws and ethical standards” (2011: 76) without explicating these
standards. This neoclassical idea of rational and profit-driven businesses within a (certainly not too
extensively regulated) legal framework points to their limited, rather orthodox understanding of business.
It is correct that businesses are profit-orientated actors and that they operate based on an economic rationality.
However, they are also societal actors and as such they understand how to interact with their environment
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