Journal of Business Ethics 92 (4):585-600 (2010)

The political shift toward an economic liberalism in many developed market economies, emphasizing the importance of the marketplace rather than government intervention in the economy and society (Dorman, Systematic Occupational Health and Safety Management: Perspectives on an International Development, 2000; Tombs, Policy and Practice in Health and Safety 3(1): 24-25, 2005; Walters, Policy and Practice in Health and Safety 03(2):3-19, 2005), featured a prominent discourse centered on the need for business flexibility and competitiveness in a global economy (Dorman, 2000; Tombs, 2005). Alongside these developments was an increasing pressure for corporate social responsibility (CSR). The business case for CSR - that corporations would benefit from voluntarily being socially responsible — was increasingly promoted by governments and corporations as part of the justification for self-regulation. The aim of the article is to examine more closely the proposition that self-regulation is effective, with particular reference to the business case for workplace equality and safety. Based on a comprehensive literature review and documentary analysis, it was found that current predominant management discourse and practice focusing on diversity and safety management systems (OHSMS) resonate well with a government and corporate preference for the business case and self-regulation. However, the centrality of individual rather than organizational factors in diversity and OHSMS means that systemic discrimination and inherent workplace hazards are downplayed, making it less likely that employers will initiate structural remedies needed for real change. Thus, reliance on the business case in the argument for self-regulation is problematic. In terms of government policy and management practice, the business case needs to be supplemented by strong, proactive legislation, and worker involvement
Keywords self-regulation  globalization  business case  corporate social responsibility  workplace equality  workplace safety
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-009-0174-1
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