Green Injustice: Environmentalists practice Corporate Social Irresponsibility
It's trendy to talk about "corporate social responsibility." The idea is companies have obligations beyond making a profit for their shareholders or creating products and services that their customers want; they have responsibilities to wider society as well.
So, CSR may sound harmless, even noble. But in practice it can be deeply injurious to some of the world's poorest, least advantaged, and most vulnerable people.
Any meaningful notion of social responsibility would account for the concerns and circumstances of men and women in developing countries, from Asia to Africa to Latin America. Billions of people in these regions continue to live in appalling, inhuman, grinding poverty. They want what we in the West enjoy: prosperity, rising living standards, and opportunity.
But under the CSR banner, governments and nongovermental organizations are promoting policies and practices that perpetuate poverty and limit the potential of aspiring nations.
For example, we know from history that trading in global markets is one of the surest ways for poor countries to climb the ladder to prosperity. And yet corporations, governments and NGOs in the West want to restrict imports of agricultural goods from Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
They claim that plantation-scale agriculture in poor countries harms planetary ecology. That's false. The CSR zealots simply want to protect domestic industries in wealthy countries and do the bidding of Western labor unions and ideological environmentalists. They are old-school communists dressed as green planet warriors.
A recent illustration of this comes from Walmart, which announced earlier this year that it would only source "sustainable" products for its stores. Walmart is following the path now trod by many other large multinational companies. Sourcing "sustainable" goods, it is argued, is the CSR thing to do.
Not so. The sustainability criteria are written by radical environmental groups working in concert with Western producers. Their aim is to ensure that developing country producers are disqualified from the market. This is a misguided CSR effort that will exacerbate poverty and increase costs to consumers in the developed world.
There's a bitter irony in this particular instance. Walmart is a retailer long associated with providing affordable products for average people. "Always Low Prices" is its motto. And yet this CSR effort will increase the cost of goods on its shelves. It demonstrates the extent to which CSR has corrupted industry in the developed world.
No example demonstrates this better than the insidious partnership between Walmart and World Wildlife Fund over beef sourcing. To appease environmentalists, Walmart is promoting efforts to reduce the land available to raise cattle both in the United States and abroad, and impose strict socialist certification standards on beef production. This will reduce supply and availability, and inevitably lead to higher prices for beef, an important food staple.
That governments and multilateral aid organizations such as the World Bank are engaged in similar efforts to radically alter markets and reduce access for developing world producers. Governments that had once made so much progress in lowering trade barriers are now resurrecting barriers in new forms. And that an anti-poverty organization such as the World Bank would promote CSR marks the utter corruption of its mission.
The NGOs that are complicit in this anti-development effort - including Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund and others -- hide behind dubious environmental hypotheses and questionable science. They are funded by leftist political philanthropy groups, including the Tides Foundation (i.e. - Sen. John Kerry's wife, Theresa), the Ford Foundation and a host of other well-known anti-capitalists forces.
Of course, environmental groups have long been hostile to economic growth and modernity. But they have made their peace with it in the Western world, as they jet-set across the globe to environmental conferences and enjoy the creature comforts of life in Europe and the United States. They are untroubled by their own rank hypocrisy as they seek to deny the benefits of economic growth to industrious men and women in the developing world while living in comfort at home.
Companies, governments and NGOs who felt a genuine sense of social responsibility for those who live on less than a dollar a day would support foreign direct investment in these communities to promote entrepreneurial risk taking and the cultivation of native enterprise and industry.
Instead, we get appalling and insulting programs such as REDD+. This program, crafted by those who want global government run by the United Nations, pays poor people not to develop home-grown commercial enterprises for trading goods in global markets. It's a perverse kind of welfare check designed to bribe poor people to stay at home and sit on their hands.
Indeed, for governments today straining under bulging deficits, subsidies are not the answer. Removing barriers to trade and technology are keys to the global economic growth that will enrich everyone.
At the end of the day, CSR is an infinitely malleable term that, like fair trade, has been hijacked by politically motivated ideological and special interest groups to undermine commerce and entrepreneurship. In its current form, CSR offers no hope that it will improve the living standards or dignity of those most disadvantaged in society.
In this way, CSR should be renamed CSI - for Corporate Social Irresponsibility. And like the popular television show with the same name, CSI involves a crime scene. In this episode, left-wing elites in the West are harming the poorest men and women on the planet.