Can Corporate Social Responsibility prevent wars?

Posted on March 27, 2012


Just tucking into a great read by Michael Hopkins entitled Corporate Responsibility & International Development: Is Business the Solution? I should be making the most of the rare spring sunshine and taking the opportunity to carry on reading out in the garden but I’ve had to come inside and post because the book poses the most interesting question. Could Corporate Social Responsibility have prevented the Iraq War? Hopkins emphatically argues “Yes!”

The relations between Halliburton, Bechtel, Carlyle and many other corporations in a CSR would have been intensively examined. Stakeholders would have been held publically accountable, and social irresponsible actions such as supporting war efforts for personal gain would have been stamped out.

While these are all valid points it’s difficult for me to see how any of these factors, had they been achieved, would’ve prevented the war from taking place. Am I missing something? I’m thoroughly taken by the idea that multinational corporations have a positive role to play in development. It’s a side of development that receives far too little attention on the course I’m studying.

Yet while I can see a way in which corporations can be encouraged/made to factor in the potential for their activities to create conflict or even violence (see CDA’s Preventing Conflict in Exploration Tool, designed to help extractive industry explorers build strategies to prevent conflict at their exploration sites) it’s a big leap to get to the point where CSR actually stops wars from taking place.

Posted in: Development