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Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman urge fans to help Africa

In a show of corporate social responsibility, DC Comics unleashes its superheroes on the problems in the Horn of Africa

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The idea of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) – and the DC Comics initiative is a good example of CSR – was birthed in the last few decades as companies began to envision their stakeholders – and not just their shareholders – as important beneficiaries of their services.

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But CSR has not gone uncriticized. A few years ago, Forbes Magazine ran a series debating the idea: “Proponents insist that companies should take into account the interests of society as a whole while conducting business and claim they can do so profitably. Critics say only people can have moral obligations, and that companies are already helping the world by providing jobs for workers and goods for consumers. Others dismiss CSR as cynical marketing by rapacious, profit-maximizing multinationals,” Forbes explained in the series overview.

A recent study by Forbes suggests that CSR may be evolving – perhaps, it could be argued, due to some criticism that it is no more than “window dressing” or greenwashing. The study looked at CSR in the cases of Eli Lilly, MasterCard, and Hewlett-Packard, and also surveyed a wide array of companies worldwide, and observed a few trends. One of them is that volunteerism has become more important in recent years, indicating that companies seek to engage in social impact projects beyond philanthropy alone. Another is that philanthropy can be most helpful to business goals when the CEO is actively involved in the program.

Janine Schooley, senior vice president of programs at PCI, a California-based organization dedicated to supporting sustainable development efforts worldwide, shared with Dowser her views on the potential impact of corporate social responsibility campaigns.

"Here at PCI we have found partnering with corporations or corporate foundations to be quite strategic and helpful in addressing the needs of the vulnerable communities we serve in Sub-Saharan Africa. Corporate Social Responsibility provides us with yet another tool, another set of much needed resources, whether they be cash, in-kind, or human resources.  It takes effort to find the right intersection between a particular CSR focus and PCI's mission, but once we find it, the partnership can be very beneficial to all concerned,” she said.

How effective will DC Comic's CSR initiative be? Stay tuned. In the coming months we'll be monitoring the implementation of the initiative, tracking what happens from the idea of the aid program to the execution – in the US and in the Horn of Africa.

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