Abstract: Corporate Social Responsibility: A Current Fashion?

Inga Barbara Nuhn


In recent years, there has been much academic interest in the social role of companies and ethical aspects of their businesses. Not only scholars of different fields such as economic, political, or social sciences deal with business ethics. Many entrepreneurs, politicians, and communication agencies have paid great attention to this topic as well. However, neither corporate social responsibility nor corporate citizenship find consideration in modern business historiography. Thus we lack a clear understanding of the evolution over time and what this issue meant to specific companies. Anglophone terminology dominates the practical and scientific—non-historical—approach and implies that the origins of instruments and measures are to be found beyond the Atlantic. In Germany, the discussion about the Anglophone terms in particular is indeed still young, but the social commitment of numerous companies is not. This paper will argue that corporate social responsibility is not a new phenomenon but a concept that has developed over time with different accents. Using the example of a company active within chemicals—Bayer AG headquartered in Leverkusen—the change of terms and fields of commitment will be in the center of attention.