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The “civically responsible” enterprise

Business is about profits, but it is also about responsibility in various forms, whether it be financial, humanistic, social or civic. Sure, it may be difficult to see factories as more than just a place where we make things and make a profit, to see them as a place of responsibility. It may be especially difficult nowadays, but it is increasingly true, at least when it comes to businesses that have a true culture of enterprise. Nonetheless, it has – perhaps, and for some time now – been the rule that of a capitalist market populated by businesses seeking to maximise profits with the sole responsibility being that of staying within the law.

However, the idea that legal responsibility is no longer enough, and that we must also add social responsibility, is becoming an increasingly popular topic for discussion. Now, Stefano Zamagni, a professor of Political Economy at the University of Bologna and an adjunct professor of International Political Economy at John Hopkins University, has added another concept: that a modern business must also have civic responsibility. The concept of a civically responsible business is a fascinating one. Imagine a business that sees its production activities and its role in general as having a sort of “global citizenship”, i.e. something that goes beyond profits, of course, but which also surpasses the idea of social responsibility in business.

During a talk at the Italian National Forum of Applied Ethics, Zamagni explained this idea best when he said, “The socially responsible business has certainly made important headway in the direction of making the market more civilised, but it’s not enough. Already today, and even more so in the future, businesses will be asked not only to generate wealth in a socially acceptable manner, but to contribute – along with the government and civil society organisation – to redesigning the economic and political structure that we have inherited from the recent past.” In other words, it is our very future which is at stake, a future in which business and the culture of enterprise can play a determinant role in stopping the decline of the economy and in promoting alternative models of growth and development.

All of this has been condensed down into just 170 pages, but it is a work that is to be read with the awareness that it may provide a roadmap for the future.

Impresa responsabile e mercato civile

Stefano Zamagni

Il Mulino,  May 2013

Business is about profits, but it is also about responsibility in various forms, whether it be financial, humanistic, social or civic. Sure, it may be difficult to see factories as more than just a place where we make things and make a profit, to see them as a place of responsibility. It may be especially difficult nowadays, but it is increasingly true, at least when it comes to businesses that have a true culture of enterprise. Nonetheless, it has – perhaps, and for some time now – been the rule that of a capitalist market populated by businesses seeking to maximise profits with the sole responsibility being that of staying within the law.

However, the idea that legal responsibility is no longer enough, and that we must also add social responsibility, is becoming an increasingly popular topic for discussion. Now, Stefano Zamagni, a professor of Political Economy at the University of Bologna and an adjunct professor of International Political Economy at John Hopkins University, has added another concept: that a modern business must also have civic responsibility. The concept of a civically responsible business is a fascinating one. Imagine a business that sees its production activities and its role in general as having a sort of “global citizenship”, i.e. something that goes beyond profits, of course, but which also surpasses the idea of social responsibility in business.

During a talk at the Italian National Forum of Applied Ethics, Zamagni explained this idea best when he said, “The socially responsible business has certainly made important headway in the direction of making the market more civilised, but it’s not enough. Already today, and even more so in the future, businesses will be asked not only to generate wealth in a socially acceptable manner, but to contribute – along with the government and civil society organisation – to redesigning the economic and political structure that we have inherited from the recent past.” In other words, it is our very future which is at stake, a future in which business and the culture of enterprise can play a determinant role in stopping the decline of the economy and in promoting alternative models of growth and development.

All of this has been condensed down into just 170 pages, but it is a work that is to be read with the awareness that it may provide a roadmap for the future.

Impresa responsabile e mercato civile

Stefano Zamagni

Il Mulino,  May 2013