IntroductionThe increasing influence of multinational corporations on state policymaking; private ratings agencies downgrading the security of national debt commitments; private contracting companies providing military support to troops in the Middle East.… Like it or not, the private sector has carved a significant role for itself in twenty-first-century daily life of us all.
As this role becomes more and more prominent, private entities have capitalized on the opportunities presented by Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. These corporate departments are dedicated to activities that ensure the company is operating in a responsible way toward its local, national and global environments (for example, a company might work to counteract externalities like pollution, or create a foundation dedicated to providing educational grants to students who would otherwise be unable to afford college).
CSR is a key facilitator of cultural diplomacy, helping to building dialogue, understanding and trust between companies and their clients (and potential clients) all over the world through grants, exchange programs and sponsored community initiatives. The stronger the relationships between a company and its clients, the more trust will grow, and the easier it will be to foster both consumer activity and general goodwill toward a corporation.
Corporate cultural diplomacy also helps present a more accurate and comprehensive picture of particular corporate environments and the ethical standards a company subscribes to. By initiating campaigns to counter misconceptions regarding its activities, a company can increase its credibility and legitimacy while simultaneously heightening its local, national and global profiles. This strategy can go a long way toward mitigating potential conflicts.
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) has designed the Corporate Cultural Diplomacy Project in order to draw attention to and further debate about the importance of these diplomatic efforts of the private sector for both corporates and communities.
The Corporate Cultural Diplomacy Initiative consists of the following major components:
Historical Research and Analysis -The ICD will produce a comprehensive report examining the history of corporate ethics, social responsibility programs and philanthropy in the private sector. Research will concentrate on the Industrial Revolution, the so-called Gilded Age in the United States; the global depression during the interwar years; commerce under the postwar Bretton-Woods system; the loosening of capital-flow restrictions and the rise of neoliberal ideology; the “boom years” of the 1990s; and the modern financial crisis. This report will provide the foundation for the project.
Case Studies - The ICD will produce a series of interpretive case studies—that is, studies that draw on previous theories or generalizations while not attempting to create a new one. Each study will examine in detail the Corporate Social Responsibility programs of a leading multinational corporation, how the program is affected, and the discernible results. Each study will assess the corporation’s success in meeting its own espoused objectives and complying with the overarching principles of CSR.
Corporate Cultural Diplomacy Projects - The ICD will design and implement new corporate cultural diplomacy projects in official partnership with private companies around the world.
Corporate Watch - The ICD will produce a “Corporate Watch” report that will assess major multinational corporations and assign them a “grade” based on the following criteria: Compliance with individual principles of corporate social responsibility, if any; ability to meet individual goals; ability to accommodate consumers; treatment of workers (including provision of adequate benefits); diversity; and scope of corporate philosophy.