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Corporate Social Responsibility in Today's Globalized World

As an inevitable result of our increasingly shrinking world due to technological advancement, globalization has become a controversial topic. Since the collapse of Bretton Woods, the emergence of globalization brought with it deterritorialization and the empowerment of corporation. While critiques deemed globalization to be merely a new form of colonialism/exploitation by the multinational corporations, the benefit of free trade based on comparative advantage, technological advancement, and cross-cultural opportunities resulting from globalization are undeniable. Despite that globalization indeed rendered certain Third World nations vulnerable, the rise of developing nations like China and India prompted by globalization should nevertheless be valued. In the recent years, environmental degradation and social inequity resulting from globalization raised much public concerns. These valid concerns rendered business CSR commitments ever so imperative. Compared to the past, more consumers today are willing to support companies that value environmental protection and social commitments. As a result, nearly every corporation today adopted CSR conducts that not merely served as a philanthropic supplement, but as their fundamental corporate value. However, at times compromises must be made between aggressive profit maximization and CSR commitments. In response, some companies place more value on CSR than others, while some only appear to value CSR as to enhance corporate image. Thus, it becomes difficult for consumers to discern whether a company is merely practicing green washing or is truly devoted to its CSR conduct. Moreover, some companies would practice CSR at certain aspect while violate CSR at some other aspects of their business. For example, Walmart has adopted CSR conduct such as reducing solid waste by 25%, but sweatshops continued to be one of Walmarts means for cost minimization . Taking a deeper look into the case of sweatshops, one would be prompt to think that on any day, anyone from a developed country could walk into Walmart, purchase clothes at a cheap price, and feel pleasant. Unbeknownst that at the other end of the world, numerous starving, even violently abused, children are working overtime in sweatshops manufacturing these clothes. Theoretically, one could argue that perhaps government should step into such situation, multinational corporations (MNCs) should step out of such exploitation, consumers should step away from such products, or that the oppressed workers should step up for themselves. Unfortunately, these idealistic concepts remained conceptual once reality strikes. In fact, government sovereignty nowadays is mainly influenced by the MNCs, who contribute substantially to the countries annual GDPs/ GNPs. In turn, these multinational giants are driven by consumers worldwide. Therefore, unless consumers start demanding fairly traded products, sweatshops are unlikely to decrease. Nevertheless, consumer behavior is rarely immune to the temptation of low prices. Finally, although sweatshop workers desire improvements in work condition and wages, such request will likely cause them to be dismissed. Without better alternatives, the termination of sweatshop would only further impoverish their destitute lives. The problem of exploitation, like sweatshops, is not likely to be terminated in the short run. But I believe it will be alleviated in the next few decades, when the time is ripe for our generation to rise. Equipped with the knowledge of social responsibilities, we will engage in the business world endeavor to make CSR and environmental protection the core of any corporation, substituting exploitation with value creation in the Third World. Hopefully then, one will look at globalization and be inspired to think, its not globalization itsel f that is beneficial or detrimental, but how people act upon it.