Integrative social contract theory and urban prosperity initiatives

Journal of Business Ethics 72 (3):263 - 278 (2007)
Urban communities in 21st century America are facing severe economic challenges, ones that suggest a mandate to contemplate serious changes in the way America does business. The middle class is diminishing in many parts of the country, with consequences for the economy as a whole. When faced with the loss of its economic base, any business community must make some difficult decisions about its proper role and responsibilities. Decisions to support the community must be balanced alongside and against responsibilities to owners, shareholders and relevant “stakeholders” in a relatively new context. Corporations in urban communities “hollowed out” by white flight or urban sprawl must decide what level of support they can and should provide. This paper examines corporate decisions within the emerging urban prosperity initiatives, using the framework of integrative social contract theory proposed by Donaldson and Dunfee. We suggest that urban prosperity initiatives present a mandate on corporations sufficiently strong as to qualify as an authentic norm. Further, we argue that strict adherence to a corporate bottom line approach or “corporate isolationism” is not congruent with contemporary community standards.
Keywords integrative social contract theory  authentic norm  community prosperity  community engagement  corporate social responsibility
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