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Oct 27, 201402:46 PMMinority Biz Report

with Sam Owens

How corporate social responsibility could boost black-owned businesses

(page 1 of 2)

Political preferences aside, most people would agree that it is incumbent upon corporations to exhibit some measure of social consciousness and good citizenship within their communities.

In response to this popular sentiment, corporations often engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to endear themselves to targeted communities or demographics. In Madison, CSR initiatives typically take the form of corporations supplying financial resources for nonprofit institutions.

The feel-good nature of CSR initiatives makes it nearly taboo to ever question the economics of the marriage between local corporations and nonprofits. Yet if Madison has any hope of rehabilitating its reputation when it comes to the economic disempowerment of black communities, then we must be willing to explore whether a more robust form of CSR could better facilitate racial equity.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that most corporations are sincere when it comes to their CSR campaigns and that they are genuinely interested in promoting the social welfare of disadvantaged demographics. As memorialized in the Race to Equity Report, perhaps our most pressing social welfare issue is the need for racial equity — particularly the need to provide equal educational and economic development opportunities to black Madisonians.

Consequently, many corporations have narrowly focused their CSR initiatives on providing financial assistance to nonprofits that deliver workforce development and academic enrichment services to predominantly black communities. I cannot stress enough the importance of funding and delivering these forms of developmental services. However, because this CSR model does not include initiatives that target the financial development of black-owned businesses, our business sector is missing an opportunity to empower the people who are best suited to empowering the most disadvantaged Madisonians.


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