Suyin Aerts
September 6, 2019

Deontology vs CSR

I had the pleasure to be the 'Master of Interaction' on the CxO event 2019, in the beginning of the week in Brussels.

The C-level managers in the room got different cases to solve together and at a certain moment they were asked to think about CSR and how a facility company could help their customers when it comes to acting in a Corporate Social Responsible way. While walking around I could listen at a certain moment to a discussion at one of the tables, where they were arguing on the fact when something is just deontology and when it becomes a CSR project...

It triggered me, as indeed what is in a word, and is there a difference?

CSR is often defined as is the responsibility borne by companies as regards the effects they have on society. It can be defined as a continuous process of improvement, in which companies incorporate social, environmental and economic considerations into the overall management of the company in a voluntary, systematic and coherent way.

In the context of CSR, companies are no longer evaluated only from an economic perspective, but also from a societal and environmental one. CSR is based on a range of tools - norms, standards and labels - which make it possible to measure the authenticity of these practices and their added value, and to maximize their effects for both the company and society.

But what about deontology?

Deontology is an ethical theory that uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. Deontology is often associated with philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that ethical actions follow universal moral laws, such as “Don’t lie.  Don’t steal.  Don’t cheat.”

Deontology seems very simple to apply. It just requires that people follow the rules and do their duty. This approach tends to fit well with our natural intuition about what is or isn’t ethical.

Seems easy, but it all starts with what you personally feel is right or wrong. Are ethics a set of universal things we all agree on?

Are ethics not often based on what we were taught, in the first place by our parents and afterwards by other people that educate us? I do see a lot of companies using "CSR" as an excuse to highlight things in their marketing which for another company are just probably being a deontological way of doing business, being ethical...

What is right or wrong? What is ethical? What are standards?

Is a beautiful lady by default white, young, blond, with big blue eyes and long legs, size 36?

When are your driving to fast to your own standards? Do we base ourselves on the boards beside the highway ? Or on the situation?

At what age do you leave your children alone at home ? We cannot base ourselves on a law, would it not depend on how responsible your child is. Does it not change from one kid to another(what I can see as a parent at least with my kids)?

So that little chit-chat talk at that table...made me think and as it is Friday, I thought let's share my thoughts.

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