CSR: Not just a recent phenomena

The term ‘corporate social responsibility’ was coined  in 1953 within Howard Bowen’s book; Social Responsibilities of the Businessman (Bowen, 1953). Thus one could be forgiven for believing that it is a recent phenomenon. However, the concept of CSR has a much longer lineage than generally perceived; indeed the concept of CSR is as old as the history of business itself. For example; commercial logging operations and laws to protect forests can both be traced back almost 5,000 years (Brass Center, 2007). King Hammurabi of Ancient Mesopotamia in around 1700 BC is known to have introduced a code in which builders, innkeepers or farmers were put to death if their negligence caused the deaths of others, or major inconvenience to local citizens (Asongu, 2007). In the intervening time, history has recorded the grumblings of Ancient Roman senators about the failure of businesses to contribute sufficient taxes to fund their military campaigns (Asongu, 2007). In 1622 disgruntled shareholders in the Dutch East India Company, are said to have started issuing pamphlets complaining about management secrecy and “self enrichment” (Brass Center, 2007).


Asongu, J. (2007). The history of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business and Public Policy , Volume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2007).

Bowen, H. R. (1953). Social Responsibilities of the Business Man. New York: Harper.

Brass Center. (2007). History of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Retrieved 21 07, 2008, from http://www.brass.co.uk: http://www.brass.cf.ac.uk/uploads/history_l3.pdf

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Posted in corporate sustainability
2 comments on “CSR: Not just a recent phenomena
  1. jianzhou says:

    agree. CSR started 1900 B.C. there are so many CSR definition out there, I like thiss one most:

    According to Michael McComb writing in the South
    China Morning Post:
    The notion of companies looking beyond profits to their role in society is
    generally termed corporate social responsibility (CSR)… It refers to a company
    linking itself with ethical values, transparency, employee relations, compliance
    with legal requirements and overall respect for the communities in which they
    operate. It goes beyond the occasional community service action, however, as
    CSR is a corporate philosophy that drives strategic decision-making, partner
    selection, hiring practices and, ultimately, brand development (McComb, 2002).


  2. jeremy says:

    I’d not considered this angle on CSR before Colin – thanks.

    Not sure too many of today’s corporations would be too keen on the idea of capital punishment for incidents of negligence though!

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