The recent major piece of The Economist of January 22nd on corporate social responsibility (CSR) -in turn part of a number of pieces in a similar vein, with greater or lesser relevance, aired in mainstream media in recent times, has added to the this -most important- discussion in ways that call for reply and comments.

To the undersigned the piece of The Economist is full of arguments clumsily or contradictorily construed, and blatant disregard of crude realities, which depart from the usually more intelligent, measured and informed style of such publication. Thus, the article becomes suspect of some obscure, prejudiced, unobjective ideological design to cause damage to the cause of CSR -an imperative for the times we live in if diseased capitalism -certainly far from a God-given system- is to make it out of the present grave quagmire it has plunged the world into. In this latter respect, as someone from the South of the planet where the abuses and exploitation of imperialist capitalism has taken such a toll to siphon off so many resources to the industrial North, I find quite grievous the following statement of the said journal: "The standard of living people in the West enjoy today is due to little else but the selfish pursuit of profit" -quite an utterly selfish, self-complacent and historically distorting statement in itself.

Apart from the biased ideological barrage, other statements in The Economist piece, which purport to be of factual nature, deserve no less careful attention, in view of their great implications. Such as the one that says: "For most conventionally organized public companies -which means most of all the big ones- CSR is little more than a cosmetic treatment".

On the other hand, I do concur with the assertion of The Economist that the bottom line of Ethics holds the key to address the maladies of any lack of corporate accountability and show the way for the right policies to deal with them.

On the other hand, unlike the contradictory-with-the latter argument of The Economist stating that manager’s accountability is only with shareholders and profit -making -too easy and empty an argument- I believe that the exercise of Ethics and CSR primarily boils down to the duty of companies to produce useful and non-harmful goods and services.

Ethics, further, is primarily built-in and internalized (not depending from pressures or regulations from outside) and is something of a universal-absolute nature. It is, thus, misleading trying to confine Ethics to the vagaries of cultural-historic interpretations. Ethics is based on the universal, fundamental, Laws of God (common to all genuine religions), Laws of The Cosmos, or Nature -however one may wish to term them. Among them stand out the Unity or Interdependence of All Life, the Law of Cause and Effect, the predominance of cooperation over competition, and so on. These laws or principles apply universally and uncompromisingly to life and life processes and human beings can only ignore them at their own peril. They are more than an idle moral choice, they concern the preservation of our own integrity and proper functioning as members of the web of life.

In sum, there is only one Ethics; and perhaps the greatest obstacle on the way to humans to reconcile with Ethics and its unmatched wisdom has been the self-serving notion of "ethical relativism" that have dominated in the western world.

In many traditional societies and genuine native cultures the notion of Ethics as inherently absolute and built-in, still rules. Thus, the custom in some tribes for individuals to say "error" instead of the more common western modern expression "I apologize" when they have acted improperly -revealing the notion of a perfectly internalized and communally shared single Ethics.

If still in doubt with any of the above, let’s remember what Ethics is all about. According to The Webster Dictionary, in a definition ethimologically faitfhful and socially consensual, "Ethics" is: "the principles of honor and morality", "moral" in turn defined, in a harmonious mutually reinforcing duo with "Ethics", as: "pertinent to distinction between right or wrong, the rules of right conduct..based on ethical rather than legal rights".

Therefore I think that the ensuing challenging debate presented to the CSR concept may be, indeed, a welcomed opportunity for stock-taking, for addressing critics (both legitimate and dishonest), for taking a look at pending issues to put the house in better order and coherence (including addressing the actors which have hijacked the concept for self-serving "CSR washing" -on which Paul Hawken has performed a timely whistle-blowing role with a recent major piece published in Dragonfly), for drawing lines between more coherent and less coherent practicioners -to the benefit of the interests of concerned investors, and, finally, even for having a debate about whether capitalism will remain for ever a straight jacket of the CRS industry or, on the contrary, humanity will be given a chance to try out more evolved, humane, participatory and responsible economic models.

These are times where whatever is truthful surfaces, sooner than later, and whatever is not too. And Truth, like Gandhi said is "hard like a diamond and tender like a flower bud"