Last Updated Sep 20, 2010 8:34 PM EDT
Which begs the question: why has there been no shareholder revolt against CSR? If it is -- as Friedman and his heirs argue -- an unethical misuse of shareholder funds, then why haven't the shareholders risen up against it? Why are they much more steamed up about CEO pay than about doing good in the community?
I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that the companies that invest heavily in CSR are well-known for doing so. When you buy stock in Google, Nike or WalMart, you know that CSR is part of the company's strategic positioning, marketing and competitive (or defensive) edge. Their shareholder documentation goes into it at length. So if you don't like it, don't invest in it.
The other reason is that, in almost all companies, CSR is such an infinitesimally small part of overall expenditure that it isn't worth arguing about. Is there any company out there doing so much on the CSR front that it's seriously eating into profits? If there is, I'd love to hear about it -- but I'll bet their shareholders don't mind.