III. The Forces of Change
It is difficult to assess the significance of contemporary trends associated with corporate environmental and social responsibility by simply weighing up selected cases of “best practice” or “greenwash”. Given the relative novelty of the current wave of business interest in corporate responsibility, it is probably unrealistic to expect significant progress within such a short time frame. It is perhaps more relevant to ask what sort of enabling environment is being put in place - in terms of policies, institutions, partnerships and pressures - that might encourage business to improve its environmental and social performance. What are some sectors of business responding to? And how strong are the forces that promote corporate responsibility? This section identifies what these “drivers” are, and suggests that they may indeed be powerful enough to scale up the corporate responsibility movement in terms of the numbers of companies, sectors and countries involved.
The question of why some sectors of business are changing reveals an answer that has less to do with a new-found concern for the environmental and social condition of the planet, than with the economic, political and structural aspects that are discussed below. These include so-called win-win opportunities, the possibility of enhancing competitive advantage, “reputation management”, pressure group and consumer politics, and responsiveness to both regulation (or the threat of regulation) and changes that are occurring in the way production and marketing are being organized globally.
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