Putting the Corporate Back Into CSR: A Rejoinder to Natalie Brender

In a blog post yesterday, my colleague Natalie Brender rejected a recent Ottawa Citizen column’s condemnations of the use of CIDA funds to subsidize Canadian mining companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in mining-affected communities in developing countries.

The crux of Natalie’s objections is as follows:

“[A]s for the notion that damage-mitigating projects should be paid for solely by mining companies themselves, it’s implausible to think that those companies could design and implement such programs. That’s what NGO expertise is for. CIDA funding makes it possible for Canadian NGOs to put that expertise to use…”

I believe that reasoning is faulty. If highly profitable Canadian companies do not have sufficient in-house expertise to design and implement programs that mitigate the damage they cause, they can simply hire people who do, be they more specialized firms, NGOs, consultants or permanent staff. That is what private corporations do when they lack expertise in a specific area. They don’t need CIDA and, indirectly, the Canadian public to help foot the bill.

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