Globalization: Corporate Social Responsibility

Truth is: I am not a fan of euphemisms and I am not sure who else is either, besides politicians.

One euphemism that I am not particularly fond is “globalization.” In a previous post, I shared an essay that I wrote last year. I discussed why Aboriginal women do not benefit from globalization. In that essay I explained the definition of globalization as follows:

Globalization is an ambiguous term with multiple meanings. When applying ambiguous terms to a specific group of people, caution should be taken because these terms and their concepts may seem to only benefit part of the group, rather than the whole group. A definition of what globalization is and how it pertains to Aboriginal people should be established. In Globalization and Self-Government: Impacts and Implications for First Nations in Canada, Gabrielle A. Slowey points out that globalization is a “common term…with a variety of meanings [and] for some, it is a dangerous euphemism” (266). Globalization as it is relevant to Aboriginal peoples can be defined as the corporate control over resources for profit. Furthermore, Slowely describes globalization as “corporations [assuming] a more dominate role in all spheres of life” (265). This corporate dominated role suggests that globalization is purely profit driven, and in the corporate world, people are unconcerned with the under-privileged, like Aboriginal women. Another question relating to globalization and Aboriginal peoples is what is it exactly that corporations seek to control? As it pertains to Aboriginal peoples, corporations seek to control natural resources. In Globalization as Racialized, Sexualized Violence, Rauna Kuokkanen describes globalization as “a form of oppression that is linked to patriarchy” (218) and “this patriarchal control [is] over those defined as subordinate, whether women, indigenous peoples or the environment (‘natural resources’)” (222). Koukkanen shows that corporations seek to control those who are considered subordinate, which includes women, Aboriginal people, and their natural resources. Aboriginal women are then a unique group to the world of globalization because they are connected to issues relating to women, to race, and to natural resources. Therefore, this essay defines globalization as a purely profit driven, corporate dominating concept that seeks to control the natural resources of Aboriginal people in a top-down fashion.

With this definition of globalization, I think it gives birth to the concept of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR). There are various forms of CSR. Some of them I agree with and some of them I don’t really like especially when it comes to globalization and big corporations.

CSR is defined as “the way companies integrate social, environmental, and economic concerns into their values and operations in a transparent and accountable manner. It is integral to long-term business growth and success, and it also plays an important role in promoting Canadian values internationally and contributing to the sustainable development of communities. The Government of Canada works with the Canadian business community, civil society groups, with foreign governments and communities as well as other stakeholders to foster and promote CSR” by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

For Aboriginal people, and in this definition provided for by the Canadian government, they are not represented. Okay, well maybe the community part and the social, environmental and economic concerns but what about culture?

I recently read a journal article titled “The Determinants of Employment Among Aboriginal People” by Coryse Ciceri and Katherine Scott. The article never really talked about CSR but I could apply it to the concept. They set out to answer 4 questions

  1. What is the current employment situation of Aboriginal people? Is it the same for the different groups (FN, Metis, Inuit)? How does their employment standing compare and contrast with the situation of non-Aboriginal Canadians?
  2. What is the probability of Aboriginal people being employed? Is the probability the same for the different Aboriginal groups (FN, Metis, Inuit)? What is the probability of holding employment that matches one’s level of education?
  3. What are the reasons behind the poorer employment outcomes among Aboriginal people compared to non-Aboriginal peoples?
  4. What key issues need to be taken into consideration in the design of policies and programs to improve the labour market outcomes for Aboriginal peoples?

Their conclusion? Well they basically said the following, “…levels of participation in the labour market reveal the problem is not exclusively about employment incentives. Rather, the problem is the jobs.” I couldn’t agree more. The incentives are great. The incentives are large. Their findings also found that Aboriginals tend to be employed at jobs they are either under qualified or over qualified for. They also found that for these programs/policies to work an understanding of “network of circumstances that surround an individual” had to be incorporated. Factors including

  • Social conditions
  • family and community influences
  • workplace alienation
  • individuals’ aspirations
  • transition adjustments
  • access to financial and social support structures
  • sense of identity

How does this mean that I don’t support CSR? Well for one, CSR for corporations isn’t concerned about the individual. Those opportunities are there for those that can afford it. They are there for the ones that have access to it. And access/affordability is not just pertaining to education especially if Aboriginals holding these jobs under these policies are either under qualified or over qualified. Does this mean that they are not reaching their full potential? Maybe so.

When it comes to globalization, as it pertains to CSR, the natural resources cannot be taken advantage of just as much as the people themselves. At the rate globalization and destruction of the environment occurs, those resources will not be around for long. If those resources are not around for long, where will then Aboriginals, those who rely on those resources for cultural connectivity (wherein Aboriginal culture is linked to Aboriginal identity), turn to for the sense of identity? Doesn’t matter, CSR is unconcerned with cultural identity; corporations are there to make the money…seek control over the natural resources. And perhaps, once those resources are used up, they leave. Does this mean Aboriginals will no longer be left with the one thing that differentiates themselves from other groups: their historical and cultural connection to the land (natural resources)? Maybe so.

With CSR, to me, it is a production of globalization. In other words, it is a product of a euphemism that fails to understand or at least acknowledge the issues or “network of circumstances” surrounding Aboriginal people.

Just because something sounds “nice” doesn’t mean it is “good” for everyone as a whole. As I noted earlier, some CSR is good and some not so good. Caution should especially be taken when the Canadian government applies a term with a definition (see above) that doesn’t even acknowledge Aboriginals, the core of Canadian history, in its own definition of what CSR is.

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2 comments

  1. Great point about culture lacking from most CSR statements. Globalization is dependent on capitalism, which thrives in secular, western societies. I think culture, definitely our cultures, are intertwined with our spirituality and corporations don't want to touch religion. I think our identities and cultues have huge impacts on our success, and attaining good employment outcomes and corporations who are not including that in their approach when working with our communities are missing a huge part of the puzzle. Great post!

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