CSR: trapped in a language illusion

The third of Trinity term's R:ETRO - Reputation: Ethics, Trust, and Relationships at Oxford - seminar series.

Thomas Donaldson, Mark O. Winkelman Professor and Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania will be the guest speaker for a seminar being hosted by Alan Morrison, Professor of Law and Finance at Saïd Business School, and Rita Mota, International Research Fellow at Saïd Business School and Assistant Professor at ESADE Business School, as part of the R:ETRO seminar series.

A language illusion haunts our area. The peculiar reality of knowing and doing, of theoretical and practical reason, makes this language illusion wicked. What animates the illusion is a conflict between two forms of specialized language.

The conflict is between the language of efficiency, whose terminology delivers concepts of profit and optimization, and the language of deep values, whose terminology delivers concepts of integrity, environmental sustainability, and non-discrimination.

These specialized languages are not inter-translatable. Dispelling the illusion requires a shift in conceptual vision from an object-centered to agent-centered perspective, and from theoretical to practical reason. Practical reasoning makes it possible to integrate the languages of efficiency and values into a single flow model without requiring inter-translatability.  

This, in turn, makes it possible to plot a "value gap," using Cartesian coordinates, between ideally efficient corporate actions and ideal, all-things-considered corporate actions.