Corporate social responsibility (CSR), with its subdisciplines of corporate social marketing (CSM) and cause-related marketing (CRM), has an axiomatically attractive ring. The idea of publicly traded corporations doing good deeds and behaving well seems self-evidently desirable, and any addition to humankind’s pool of social responsibility is surely to be welcomed. So when a multinational offers to provide books for British school children, support indigenous rights in the Americas, or fund child literacy programs in Malawi, the temptation is simply to say “thank you kind sir and more power to your elbow.” However, all that glisters is not gold and good deeds are not always what they seem; a kiss can be a mark of love or an act of betrayal. So we need to look further, beyond the immediate act, and examine motives, repercussions, and morality before we decide. We marketers, of all people, should look carefully at the price tag before we make the purchase. And when we do so with CSR, CSM, and CRM, it becomes clear that the costs are simply unaffordable. In this article, I adopt an uncompromisingly critical stance. I do so because helping those in need, who have fallen on hard times or are less fortunate than ourselves, and to do so without expectation of return or advantage, is the defining quality of our humanity. When we allow this to be co-opted and distorted for commercial advantage, we create a profound moral hazard.


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