Forretningsdrevet samfundsansvar: en etisk løsning?

Mads Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis explores the potential for more ethical conduct in Danish business as a result of the Danish governments plan to promote strategic CSR. In order to address this issue I have sought to capture the motivational driver behind the initiative, by analysing the relevant elements of the plan. The implied motivation identified had the characteristics of a proactive instrumental motivation. Drawing upon John Roberts Foucauldian analysis of current forms of accountability it is suggested that the instrumental motivation for Corporate Social Responsibility is something that is produced and reproduced through hierarchical/disciplinary forms of accountability, which encourage a narcissistic preoccupation with the self and how others see the individual. This has implications for ethics. Following Levinas’ influential phenomenology of ethics in “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence” it is argued that the ground of ethics lies in human sensibility which is blunted or anaesthetized by the hierarchical/disciplinary forms of accountability, in which accounting plays a central role. These forms of accountability have the potential to install distant interest in the mind of the individual, which results in a reflexive constituted sense of self that encrust the frail and vital human sentience in which ethics is grounded. The foucauldian analysis thereby suggests the explanation for the instrumental orientation and the phenomenology the implications for ethical conduct under circumstances where emphasis is placed on the before mentioned forms of accountability. Although it does not have a direct effect on the purpose of this thesis as the governance structures that are central in these relations are not analysed, it is crucial in understanding how the ethical potential of Corporate Social Responsibility can be realised in the organization. The potential for ethical conduct is closely connected to the subjectivity of the individual. The conclusion of the thesis is therefore sought trough the dialectic distinction between Responsibility for and Responsibility because of. Levinas’ phenomenology offers this distinction in the terms of the reflexively constituted identity and the denuding, or despite the self, in the assignation of responsibility for my neighbour. In the phenomenology the two alternative trajectories for identity is referred to as the ego and the Psyche. It is argued that this dialectic distinction can be seen as an analogue congruent with the distinction between the two general kinds of motivation for engaging in CSR, namely instrumental and normative motivation, where ethical conduct in the instrumental is sought because of, aiming at achieving some reward whereas the normative is sought despite these rewards and despite the self. The instrumental motivation thereby holds the individual subjected to the same self interested reflexively constituted identity that was the explanation for the motivations origin. The conclusion of the thesis is that the initiatives does not promote ethical conduct, at least not in the way levinas’ understands ethics, but merely serves to facilitate business as usual.

EducationsMSc in Auditing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages74