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Fri Apr 13, 2012, 08:29 AM

Glen Greenwald: Don't Trust Corporate Charity

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/12/dont_trust_corporate_charity/



Given their existence as legal entities designed solely to generate profits for their contractual owners, it seems surprising of late that many corporations seem to have developed something akin to a soul. Seldom a week passes where there is not some heartwarming story of Exxon Mobil donating to the Wounded Warrior Project, General Electric providing Easter baskets to the needy, or Dow Chemical offering grants to students to pay for their higher education; all acts which perhaps signal the dawn of a new era of caring corporate stewardship towards the general population. These gestures of altruism are hardly small, and in fact represent major outlays of cash for charity as part of corporate strategy. The amount of capital spent is often significant enough to represent a type of private social safety net for those who are the beneficiaries. Indeed, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a core concept in the strategy of most major organizations whereby they are ostensibly required by their own internal mandates to care and provide for the communities in which they operate. Goldman Sachs’ company website has an entire section dedicated to its “Goldman Sachs Gives” program; documenting the work the organization is doing providing services and educational opportunities to vulnerable youth. In addition it notes the work Goldman is doing to “build and stabilize communities” in the United States – a task traditionally attributed to government. To these ends Goldman and others have collectively given billions to charitable causes over the years, addressing a wide range of varying social needs.

On the surface the increased attention big business seems to be paying to general social welfare would appear to be a positive development. Major corporations go out of the way to ease the burdens of normal citizens, in the process dulling some of the harsher aspects of modern capitalism and earning for themselves PR boost. However it bears asking the question, as many good and well intentioned individuals there are sitting in the C-Suites of major companies, what would cause them to expend huge amounts of resources on pursuits which seem to have nothing to do with what their organizations are legally created to do? Public relations is a function which has always been handled by the marketing and communication departments of organizations; so given the enormous pressure to generate profits why are corporations now acting as social caretakers ?

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