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Lessons from Corporate STRATEGIC Responsibility: What's Next for CSR?

On October 16, 2012, Partners for Democratic Change brought together a remarkable group of thinkers from business, international organizations and government to discuss the future of CSR, or what we call Corporate STRATEGIC Responsibility.

Lessons from Corporate STRATEGIC Responsibility: What's Next for CSR?

Gayle Smith of the National Security Council. Photo by Benjy Feen

Together with the GE Foundation and the International Finance Corporation CommDev Office, Partners for Democratic Change invited thought leaders from international corporations, international organizations, foundations, academia and civil society to discuss the need for a more strategic approach to corporate social responsibility — Corporate Strategic Responsibility.

Approaches to CSR have been evolving over the years, especially when it comes to corporations operating in transitional countries with weak governance. The new conversation is about how strategic corporate investments in good governance can create "shared value": a more level playing field for investors, a better market for products, and better lives for citizens and communities. Partners is taking this approach forward at the international policy level and at the local level in partnership with our affiliate organizations worldwide.

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Benjamin Herzberg of the World Bank Institute explained how collusion between elites creates barriers to both democratization and economic development, and recommended an inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement process as the best way to create space for reform and sustainable development. The importance of this kind of strategic stakeholder engagement emerged as a major theme of the day; Judy Brown of Rio Tinto made a case that any extractive industry investment will succeed or fail based on the quality of the stakeholder engagement process.  

Another lesson noted by speakers was that the private sector — both international investors and local businesses on the ground — is an essential part of the picture in both developed and transitional countries. This implies a responsibility to lead by example, including participating in transparency initiatives like "Publish What You Pay", and to invest with an eye toward supporting the rule of law and stable democratic institutions.

In his concluding remarks, Congressman Jim Marshall of the US Institute of Peace noted that we are just learning how much the fields of CSR, peacebuilding and democracy-building are inter-related. If democracy and peace are good for business, then the power of business can help create momentum for democratic change.

Our thanks to these speakers for their contributions to the conversation:


And thanks also to our hosts, the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The full archive of the webcast can be found here:


For more information on Partners initiatives on corporate engagement in good governance, please contact Matthew Schwab, mschwab (at) partnersglobal (dot) org.

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