The Paradoxical Experience of Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility

Que peut-on espérer des entreprises socialement responsables ?
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The types of voluntary initiatives

It would seem paradoxical to expect business corporations to voluntarily assume social responsibility by performing roles that are usually the responsibility of governments. Yet, this is precisely what is asked from them, expecially from transnational corporations, with the result that the ground is being laid for a new type of governance. Does this process constitute a smokescreen, the transfer of political responsibilities to the private sector, a restraint on the regulation of globalization or an incentive to improve it? Each of these interpretations oscillates between ambiguity and sincerity.

Some corporations now claim an "enlarged" responsibility, termed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These corporations voluntarily adopt policies that go beyond the obligations imposed on them by government regulation and which are aimed at improving working conditions or their own environmental performance. In the least developed countries, they invest in community infrastructure, take responsibility for health services or deal with the environmental impact of their activities beyond the regulatory requirements of the host country. This seems somewhat paradoxical for profit-seeking corporations corporations. It is difficult and still too early to know just how far the process will go. Yet it is clear that the redefinition of the dividing line between public and private, the shape and limits of collective life, and the way in which society emerges is being played out at a global level.

Voluntary Initiatives

Over the last twenty years, the terms voluntary initiative and social responsibility have covered very different realities that need some clarification (see Table 1).

The types of voluntary initiatives

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These voluntary initiatives have a variety of impacts, and a large portion of their activities involves tasks that have traditionally been devolved to governments or public services, such as:

  • standards and scales for the remuneration and working conditions of employees and the provision of social services (education, health) for employees and their families;
  • protection of the environment (fight against pollution, reduction of greenhouse gases, preservation of biodiversity);
  • leadership in the local economy;
  • financing and implementing infrastructure networks or programs benefiting local populations, etc.

Transnational corporations and global policy. Private foundations, created by corporations or entrepreneurs who have made their fortune, now have funds equivalent to those of some international organizations. One such case is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up in 2000 and dedicated to spreading medical knowledge and providing medication in the countries of the South. These players, either individually or through various types of groups or lobbies, are now active in international diplomacy and have become privileged partners of the United Nations. Does this mean that some traditional functions of the State and politics have been delegated to profit-making companies and international NGOs? Have corporations and NGOs now become new types of political entities? And will this lead to the responsibility for public goods, globally as well as locally, being satisfactorily assumed by these new entities or are we witnessing a new historical enclosure movement or, in other words, the private appropriation of common resources and goods?

Created in 1990, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) now has more than 180 members.

Solving an economic enigma. Traditionally, corporations limit their role to the production and distribution of goods and services in response to demand with the aim of making a profit. Insofar as the extension of corporate activities and applicable criteria imply added costs, and since only part or none of the profits accrue to the corporations involved, this development seems contrary to the interests of corporations and their shareholders. Two explanatory scenarios might (simplistically) be drawn from such a paradox.

  • We may be witnessing media froth on the surface of the fundamentally unchanged nature of capitalism and its general propensity to internalize profits and externalize costs.[1]
  • Or we may be dealing with the contemporary manifestation, brought about by a globalized economy without a global State, of an old problem debated since the dawn of political economy, namely how to reconcile private and public interests.

The structure of the modern economy is complex and marked by the interweaving of public and private sectors. As the market's external effects such as pollution and environmental degradation are not reflected in prices, the market must consequently be regulated and supplemented by other forms of coordination. To compensate for state weaknesses and limits, especially in the realms of information and public finance, the State can call on the skills and resources of private enterprise to achieve some of its aims, whether via partnerships or through delegation. Its monopolistic position in defining the general interest is thus contested. Yet whereas finance and trade have globalized and remodeled the geography of production, there is no global State. Therein lies a source of imbalance in economic regulation.


Embedding economics into the sociopolitical sphere. While the emphasis on environmental challenges is a fairly recent development, the idea of coordinating human activity in a way that is less dependent on intervention by a public purveyor or regulator is not. Without going back to Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand," it is worth returning to the concept of the social embeddedness of the market proposed by Karl Polanyi in 1944[2] to explain the way in which production and trade are embedded in social and political rules, and to underline the role played by cultural traits in even the most ordinary economic practices. In this view, the coordination of human activity is characterized by the three coexisting modalities: reciprocity/solidarity, trade, and state regulation. The relative place of each modality has varied with history, but today they can be said to be co-evolving.


CSR as an extension of voluntary patronage. It is tempting to link the way in which 21st-century transnational corporations exercise social responsibility to the theory of "voluntary patronage" (patronage volontaire) outlined by Frederic Le Play in the middle of the 19th century. From both perspectives, the relative weakness of the State and other public institutions (available resources, sectors covered, jurisdictions, legitimacy, etc.) and their inability to assume various public responsibilities go to explain certain social innovations undertaken on private initiative and which cross market coordination and "reciprocity/solidarity". By encouraging corporations not only to fully meet relevant legal obligations but also "go beyond compliance and invest more in human capital, the environment, and relations with stakeholders,"[3] CSR can be seen as a modern extension of voluntary patronage. Just as Le Play's theory was conceived to ensure the viability of a budding industrial organization amidst the social instability and governmental weakness of 19th century France,[4] the strategic choices of contemporary transnational corporations are multiple and aim at:

  • dealing with direct needs not met by public programs (the training and stabilization of a workforce, for example),
  • pre-empting future public intervention,
  • dissuading governments from introducing constraints,
  • protecting themselves in advance against social contestation challenging their activities, techniques or products, which would harm their legal security and economic viability, and thus threaten their profitability.

An ambiguous social responsibility. Like voluntary patronage, CSR is doubly ambiguous. First, because its implications can vary considerably from country to country depending on the level of development and efficiency of public services, and on the State's functioning. Second, even within one country, these private initiatives can be read in two ways: either as an improvement in dealing with responsibility for collective problems, or as a way of preventing more legitimate and more substantial public action. As a result, the way in which corporations have occupied the public arena and contributed to the debate on governance has not always made progress an easy matter, especially in the case of climate change. On the contrary, it has often obstructed or hindered the effective handling of such issues.[5]


The Rhetoric On Responsibility

Self-regulation. It was at the beginning of the 1990s that the idea of voluntary and contractual corporate initiatives truly emerged. These developed largely in response to the difficulty in establishing effective economic regulation to handle complex problems and implementing the reforms needed for a more systematic use of economic instruments (taxes, tradeable permits, etc.).


Some companies became proactively involved. The thinking behind self-regulation was that once a certain minimum standard of economic behavior had been guaranteed by regulation, any further regulation had to rely on corporate goodwill and sense of responsibility. Whereas for the previous thirty years, critics had attributed the degradation of the global environment and social inequalities to market failures and incompleteness and to self-interested entrepreneurship, this new rhetoric suggested that corporate service and civil society initiatives act as two key levers to promote a development approach that is attentive to the ecological sustainibility and the social dimension. Paralyzed or failing nation states and international institutions, companies that had spontaneously become purveyors of collective goods to compensate for a lack of political will or resources, and civil society, and companies working together for sustainable development were the new characters put forward by this new and thoroughly disconcerting rhetoric.

Toward lasting commitment. At first glance, the discourse on CSR and, more generally, on voluntary agreements deliberately breaks with standard economic analysis. Supplementary public regulation and economic tools no longer appear as the most effective way to achieve collective goals by correcting market failures. The main challenge for governments is to create a favorable environment for voluntary corporate initiatives. For the advocates of CSR, the key to fostering sustainable development lies in voluntary corporate commitments that simultaneously target environmental quality, economic prosperity and social justice. These commitments look credible for two reasons. Firstly, they apparently stem from strategies anticipating the future economic, social and regulatory environment of corporate activity, and secondly, they depend directly on demands made by the various corporate stakeholders.

Compromises are then reached to reconcile individual interests; they are not negotiated in the name of the public good.


The company therefore becomes the paramount institution for arbitration processes affecting the different components of well-being (especially in matters of consumption and environmental protection) and how these are distributed. Action by States or international institutions thus becomes largely irrelevant owing to their weak reactivity-sometimes verging on paralysis-as is evidenced by their poor achievements in protecting the environment or preventing health and natural hazards. Furthermore, entrepreneurs can make decisions based on superior empirical knowledge of problems as well as benefit from reduced transaction costs.


These ideas are frequently espoused not only by companies and their many representatives (employers' organizations, professional organizations, international federations or groups, etc.), but also sometimes by actors from the public arena or international organizations in favor of this model. Thus, in his speech of 14 June 2005, Kofi Annan, (then) Secretary General of the United Nations, urged companies to become involved in development via the United Nations' Global Compact.


The "Global Compact" was launched in 1999 at the initiative of the UN Secretary General.


This would include adopting ten basic principles, most notably respect for human rights, workers rights to freedom of association, the abolition of child labor and involuntary prison labor, the fight against corruption and the protection of the environment.


Multiple configurations of governance. Although this approach favors the interweaving of reciprocity and the market at the expense of public arrangements-to refer back to Polanyi's three modalities of coordination-neither the State nor international institutions are destined to disappear. However, their activities are more circumscribed and limited than in the past, at least in countries that have developed a welfare state. According to this fashionable ideology, they should mutate into residual states and institutions. Beyond retaining partial control of sovereign domains such as defense, policing, administering justice, etc., the main role of public institutions would be to provide encouragement, exert influence, solicit goodwill and, in some cases, work in partnership with economic and social stakeholders or NGOs over specific issues.


The use of mercenaries, military security companies, or private militias, and the emergence of paralegal methods of arbitration demonstrate that even the sovereign domain is disintegrating.


Over the past ten years, this rhetoric has had a strong influence, and the concepts of "a coalition of goodwill" and of public-private partnerships (PPP) have now emerged. This involves joint work by companies and States, sometimes with assistance from NGOs, on specific projects that call on the technical skills and financial capacities of companies in the pursuit of the public interest. This approach has also led to a more diversified consultation process. In some countries, for environmental issues, a consultative trio of business, NGOs and government has replaced the classic business-government duo. More recently, multiple configurations have been operating: duos (NGOs-business; business-government; NGOs-government) and trios (one of the duos plus an international organization). There has even been a quintet encompassing public and private arenas and different levels of local organizations. The most salient aspect of all this is the emergence of a process in which companies and NGOs are meeting up and cooperating directly without bothering to involve the State.


In France, the Grenelle Environnement initiative (from July to October 2007) took the form of consultation/negotiation between representatives of five categories of stakeholders: governments, local authorities, environmental NGOs, companies, and trade unions but excluded elected representatives of the nation.


Yet, the limit to this plethora of private initiatives is the risk of "babelization." It was not long before the companies themselves expressed the wish that explicit, replicable frameworks be established, particularly concerning information. Thus, procedures have been established to standardize and codify information. One such example is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), established in 1997 at the initiative of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) in association with the United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP). The GRI aims at the consensual adoption of guidelines and indicators for reporting the economic, social and environmental performance of economic and non-economic organizations. This information is intended for the various stakeholders and for the social rating agencies that have emerged alongside the financial rating agencies. The question is how far this standardization can or should go, as it is produced by private initiatives that are driven by non-governmental networks involving investors, NGOs and companies.


CSR, A Stabilisation Strategy for The Corporate Environment

The intent underlying commitment to a CSR initiative can be approached in two ways.

  • Ethics and concern for public affairs are the main springboards for commitment, which is only possible in a context where a company is perceived not only as an economic organization but also as a moral entity, in the literal and not simply legal sense of the term. This entity thus deliberates issues from a moral standpoint to determine its conduct, and accepts that its behavior will be judged on that basis. This has led to the development of a distinct trend, that of "corporate ethics."
  • More time must be allowed for a company to generate profits compared to what standard economic theory expects. This is because the de facto irreversibility or costly reversibility of strategic investment and production choices means that corporate leaders are concerned with preserving the conditions enabling their companies to profitably exploit their assets for a minimal time commitment, which corresponds to the time required to valorize the investments made.

To an economist, this second version, in which self-interested rationality is in line with a company's business objectives, is less worrying than the first, which credits the company with a disconcerting degree of social messianism. Although altruism is not totally discarded, it is not the main determinant for commitment to a CSR policy. It is more a question of self-interested altruism in the sense that any benefit gained from a CSR initiative is shared among different stakeholders, but the company itself remains the main beneficiary. From this viewpoint, CSR is much like a business strategy aimed at stabilizing, through non-directly productive investments, the socioeconomic and physical context in which the company operates.

Depending on their situation and strategic interests, companies will want to take account of different social and political issues, local particularities, cultural traits and environmental parameters, which, if not strategically integrated, could lead to their social license to operate being called into question.[6] Careful consideration of the socioeconomic environment simply becomes one of the conditions of economic performance and value creation for some companies. Due to production technology constraints, these companies now have to make a lasting commitment to a chosen activity in a specific location.[7]


A Virtuous Mechanismthat Is Not Universal


While the vision of socially responsible business can find a rational basis to regulation or to managing relationships with different stakeholders, this does not mean that a universal mechanism valid for all companies can be posited. For one thing, we need to ask why some companies choose CSR and others do not. The ethical stances of their leaders do not enlighten the question very convincingly since there is no valid explanation as to why their positions vary so much depending on business sector, company size or reputation. The point in common here is rather that managers are trying to preserve the socioeconomic and institutional conditions of their company's profitability in the medium and long term, while anticipating potential contestation of the company's activities, its techniques or its products.[8]


Companies must thus not only respect public regulation but also sustain their social legitimacy and guard against future challenges to their operations. These may involve accusations of environmental or health risks or of unfair economic practices, whether in trade or working conditions. But not all companies face the likelihood of contestation to the same degree. Companies with protracted technical operations (blast-furnaces, nuclear power plants or mines, for example) certainly need to be attentive to risk prevention and forestall any form of protest leading to crises that might jeopardize their economic viability. For others, however, the threat is not very plausible, as in the case of a company with easily re-deployable or already amortized assets, with low initial investment, or with no public image to protect. In these circumstances, contestation would have little impact on the company since it would merely need to re-deploy its activities. From this standpoint, the companies spearheading CSR have in common the fact that they are concretely exposed contestation that could severely damage profitability if it were to intervene before production equipment was fully amortized.


Unknown Efficiency


Results driven by technological innovation.While the threat of contestation helps shed some light on the motivations behind the commitment of some companies and the lack of interest manifest in others, it does not enable us to evaluate the economic efficiency of the CSR mechanism. What, for instance, are the benefits for the committed operators and for the community? Similar questions may be asked about environmental performance. What are the environmental benefits gained from this process, compared to a situation in which the public authorities intervene directly with first generation tools (regulation) or second-generation tools (taxes, tradeable permits)?


The experience of the past twenty years inspires little confidence in the capacity of companies for voluntary progress. Early in the 1990s, various studies, especially from the OECD, underlined the value of voluntary initiatives, particularly during the initial stages of consideration of an emerging problem. However, the first wave of voluntary agreements in various countries (France, the United States...) turned out to be environmental window-dressing with many of the technical changes made being either profitable in themselves or decided upon for other reasons. Thus, the main environmental gains of this period should probably not be attributed to CSR tools but to the general trend toward technological innovation spurred by competition and price levels. As a result, since 2003, observers have taken a more measured position, underlining the value of combining voluntary initiatives with regulatory or economic tools able to guarantee that declared objectives have been achieved. This is the case, for example, with government proposals allowing companies to select a tool from a menu that includes the possibility of committing to objectives instead of paying a tax on polluting emissions.


The challenges of viability and competitiveness. Admittedly, environmental improvement due to voluntary modernization of production techniques within a competitive context has remained much too modest, given what needs to be changed to counter the sweeping trends that are putting increasing pressure on resources and environments. There have never been so many "responsible companies."and yet the world has never experienced such a pace and scale of environmental degradation. Things therefore need to be put back into perspective. The strategic choices, whether technological or other, of industrial corporations are essentially responses to issues of financial viability and competitiveness. Companies see environmental protection measures in terms of cost competitiveness, market differentiation and the preservation of their financial and legal security. And therein lie the limits to voluntary initiatives. Although collective issues and corporate interests may sometimes overlap, as shown by the initiatives of companies operating in countries heavily affected by HIV (see Box 3 | HIV and Companies), this is not generally the case.



Box 3 | HIV and Companies


Sanitary conditions in the countries of Southern Africa are of primary concern to the international community. This UN priority, included within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, is also high on the agenda of business circles and has led to the creation of the Business Coalition against HIV/Aids. The economic approach to this issue ensures stakeholder involvement: not fighting HIV/Aids would stifle any development possibilities for local populations and the States concerned, which are basing their development strategy on direct foreign investment and the attractiveness of the countries as an investment destination.
A report published by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) establishes a direct link between threats to the availability of qualified labor and the prevalence of HIV/Aids. Stressing that African labor is plentiful, cheap, and productive, the report sees a competitive advantage to be exploited, which the pandemic is eroding from day to day. In a country such as South Africa, where 21% of the population is reported to be HIV positive, 5% of the workforce disappears annually thus compromising 1% of GDP. Workers are dying in their prime and are replaced by a younger and less qualified generation. As a result, the epidemic is reducing productivity and increasing the cost of labor. Beyond any quantifiable effects, the epidemic is affecting morale and contributing to the worsening professional relationships, which also affect productivity.
In a study of the Lafarge company, the Harvard School of Public Health calculated the cost of one death to the company at about 4,600 euros, counting in absenteeism, medical costs, funeral expenses, lost production, and the cost of training and recruiting a new employee. Research carried out on site has revealed an annual mortality rate of about 1%. Yet the effects of HIV cannot simply be reduced to mortality. In response, the company has adopted a combative strategy of sensitizing personnel, screening for symptoms and providing free health care for the sick and their families. The company has thus conceded that it is involved in the fight against HIV not only through altruism or to improve its image but because this choice is justified economically if the annual cost of one therapy is around 1,650 euros. Of course, sensitization, prevention and care are costly for Lafarge, amounting to some 1.1 million euros over five years. "But we have calculated that without this policy Aids would cost the company 1.7 million euros. So we come out ahead. This is what we want to show other companies so that they follow our example," says F. de Rougemont, President of Lafarge South Africa.


Company policies relating to the fight against HIV have indeed been beneficial, given the initial shortcomings of public engagement in the least developed and developing countries affected by this pandemic. Yet they remain a stopgap solution that cannot replace an overall government policy covering the health needs of the whole population.


Between Smokescreen And A True Beginning


While the contribution of the voluntary initiatives of transnational companies to more sustainable development remains intensely debated, what can be said of their participation in public governance on a national or global scale? There are two possible readings of this question.


Disinformation as a brake or a way of manipulating public opinion. The first view considers CSR as a means used by transnational companies to curb public regulation or to manipulate it for their own benefit. In some cases, such as the active opposition of the ExxonMobil group to any national and international public regulation of greenhouse gases, the objective may even be to dismantle what already exists. Highlighting voluntary responsibility initiatives would then primarily serve the strategic and ideological goal of instilling the belief that there is an alternative to public regulation and that the latter is not really necessary. This smokescreen would also hide the realities of lobbying practices aimed at preventing or halting public initiatives. The underlying reading of this analysis is that companies do appear to be the main force of resistance to establishing firmer governance in environmental protection matters on a global scale.


Without resorting to a caricatural or binary critique, it is undeniable that some large companies, rather than adopt a CSR position, have crafted strategies to disinform the general public and block public regulation. One of the main strategies of the tobacco industry in the United States was not only to hold back scientific information, but also to systematically attack scientific expertise so as to sow doubt and uncertainty and thus ward off a public ban.[9] The industry lobbied to have the requirements for proof of harmfulness tightened so as to avoid restrictive public measures and unfavorable court rulings. It is also common knowledge that large corporations have colluded to hinder the dissemination of scientific knowledge by spreading edited, altered or false information and by financing studies likely to artificially stimulate controversy. In order to inject into public opinion the idea that there was a lack of scientific consensus on the thorny problem of climate change (see Box 4), ExxonMobil Corporation financed more than forty think-tanks. Meanwhile, the company was also highlighting its commitment to CSR by funding work on a range of other issues.


CSR: Creating an impetus for change. The burgeoning and still uncertain development of CSR should not however be reduced to the cynical maneuvering of certain corporations. There is also a second reading of CSR. Whatever prompts the CRS movement-and their motivations are indeed diverse-to mirror the emergence of an active civil society increasingly concerned by environmental issues, it could contribute to overall change in the practices of economic players and their partners. CSR can help bypass political blocking strategies or even the discouragingly slow establishment of policies at the international level.


Altought one of the industrial countries that made a goodwill commitment in Rio in 1992 to stabilize their 2000 greenhouse gas emissions at the 1990 level, the US actually increased its emissions by 15% and Canada by more than 25% in 2007.


By affirming their social and environmental responsibility, companies draw attention to their behavior in these areas and expose themselves to the judgment of public opinion. Experience also shows that a company will not be forgiven should it be discovered that the very value it claims to embody in the public eye has been betrayed, either through negligence or downright lying. In this way, companies' voluntary initiatives and NGO activities would help to profoundly change society, be it only gradually, and to eventually modify the political landscape. This interpretation is borne out by a gradual shift in the American government's position on climate change following the commitment to the many initiatives undertaken by individual states, municipalities and companies throughout the country.


In fact, when faced with the threat of regulatory intervention arising from a new scientifically and socially controversial problem, the first reflex of companies is to support the regulatory measures most favorable to their interests or to try to ensure that regulation altogether fails. Yet in time, when uncertainty about the rules of the game persists and uncoordinated initiatives by different types of stakeholders begin to appear, these industrial players come together to request that public intervention stabilize the rules with no further delay. At this point, the industrial world can change its attitude towards public interventions. Instead of favoring inertia or obstruction, it can become a driving force that pressurizes governments into overcoming paralyzing political conflicts. Thus, several corporate representatives attended the Climate Change Conference in Montreal in November 2005, as well as the Bali meeting in December 2007, where corporate interventions aimed more at pressing diplomats to agree on clear rules than at thwarting agreement.


The key role of consumers. Today it falls on States to complete the process by taking up the baton from companies and NGOs. But there should be no illusions about this. In both State and corporate initiatives, the key to orienting society toward sustainable development remains the attitude of consumers and ordinary citizens, both individually and collectively through associations, social activism, and political parties.


Beyond smokescreens, enterprises are guided by two concerns: the trends in the markets on which they sell their goods, which makes them sensitive to consumer appreciation of product quality; and the continuation of their social legitimacy, which makes them sensitive to threats to their activity or the technology they use. By anticipating new consumer expectations and eventual contestation against their products or production technology, with the regulatory or legal repercussions these may entail, firms are prompted to take measures of environmental and social responsibility that go beyond the strict compliance with rules. Consequently, the informed vigilance of populations, as both consumers and citizens, regarding ecological and social demands will determine the extent to which companies implement and develop voluntary strategies of responsibility, and the extend to which governments keep the challenges of sustainable development on their political agenda.


The question is to what extent future consumers, in the South as well as the North, will become more ecologically responsible citizens when making daily choices, mobilizing collectively, and making demands for additional regulation from their political representatives.


Box 2 | Kofi Annan's Speech


"... All of us, business and government alike, have an interest in making sure that globalization delivers real benefits to more of the world's people.
All of us have an interest in offering alternatives to chronic economic despair.
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. Poverty not only destroys people and families from within, it ripples outward in waves, spreading misery and upheaval. Again and again, we have seen how deprivation, human rights violations and war feed on one another in a deadly cycle that transcends frontiers.
No company is immune. No company operates in isolation. Many have long experience of working with developing countries. Many others, new to the expanding contacts and supply chains of globalization, are confronting these issues for the first time.
All now know that how they address them has a direct impact on their risks, their reputations, the morale of their employees and the very strength of the markets on which they depend.
All of us can see, more clearly than ever before, how business interests have come to dovetail with the long-standing development objectives of the United Nations.
And all of us should understand that this creates opportunities-not at some distant point in the future, but right now.
So we are here today in common cause.
We are not here to forge a new plan, but rather to implement one that commands unprecedented international legitimacy and support. I refer, of course, to the Millennium Development Goals, which were derived from the declaration adopted by world leaders at their September 2000 Summit at the United Nations."


Excerpt from Kofi Annan's speech at the meeting of representatives of the UN Global Compact, 14 June 2005.



Box 4 | Climate Change and Financing


The following passage, dated February 2008 and entitled "The Human Cost of Global Warming Policy," can be found on the website of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a beneficiary of Exxon-Mobil's support. It should be noted that, although the text includes misinformation, it is much more moderate that texts produced a few years earlier. Reliable scientific information is readily available from the 2007 IPCC report.
"Public debates on global warming policy often focus on the science of climate change. Yet whether warming is occurring is still in question; and, if global warming is occurring, the extent of mankind's influence has not yet been clearly established. According to ground-level measurements, the earth's temperature has warmed 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past century, and computer models predict an increase of nearly two degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. However, satellite data measuring the earth's temperature show no temperature increase over the past 18 years; instead, they show a slight cooling trend. Also, as the computer models are adjusted and new data are incorporated, the predicted temperature rise has gotten smaller and smaller-from about five degrees Celsius over the next century to the current prediction of less than two degrees."





1. KAPP (K. W.), The Social Costs of Private Enterprise, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1950.

2. POLANYI (K.), La Grande Transformation. Aux origines politiques et économiques de notre temps, Paris, Gallimard, 1983 [éd. originale 1944].

3. Commission des communautés européennes, Livre vert. Promouvoir un cadre européen pour la responsabilité sociale des entreprises, Bruxelles, COM (2001) 366 final, 2001.

4. HOMMEL (T.), « Paternalisme et RSE, continuité et discontinuités de deux modes d’organisation industrielle », Entreprises et histoire, 45, 2006, p. 20-38.

5. GODARD (O.) et HOMMEL (T.), « Les multinationales : un enjeu stratégique pour l’environnement ? », La Revue internationale et stratégique, 60, IRIS, hiver 2006.

6. GUNNINGHAM (N.), KAGAN (R. A.) et THORNTON (D.), Shades of Green : Business, Regulation, and Environment, Stanford (Calif.), Stanford University Press, 2003.

7. PORTER (M.) et KRAMER (M.), « Strategy and Society, The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility », Harvard Business Review, décembre 2006.

8. HOMMEL (T.), Stratégies des fi rmes industrielles et contestation sociale, Paris, INRA-Éditions, 2004 ; GODARD (O.), « Stratégies industrielles et conventions d’environnement : de l’univers stabilisé aux univers controversés », INSEE-Méthodes, « Environnement et économie », 39-40, 1993, p. 145-174.

9. MICHAELS (D.), Doubt is their Product. How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens your Health, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.