Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Peace breaks out as truce agreed in Wikipedia spat

October 2008

A wrangle over the definition of the phrase ‘corporate social responsibility’ on Wikipedia has finally been resolved.

Contributors to the internet reference site, which allows allcomers to work on entries, had been arguing since 2006 as sceptics from non-governmental organizations and free trade groups challenged definitions and inserted critical comments (EP8, issue 9, p1). Consequently, the entry had long been marked by Wikipedia as incomplete and open to dispute.

However, that tag has now been removed, indicating that a consensus appears to have been reached and that Wikipedia’s administrators consider the contents are neutral.

The entry of more than 3000 words, referring to the disputes that have triggered the online debate, says: ‘The practice of CSR is subject to much debate and criticism. Proponents argue that there is a strong business case for CSR, [while] critics argue that [it] distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing.’

The entry is now regarded as acceptable, but Wikipedia says more citations are needed to support some of the information, and the article is still open to contributors.

Lutz Preuss, director of the master’s degree programme in sustainability and management at London University’s Royal Holloway College, told EP the entry was now satisfactory. ‘While still showing the stitches of where academics, corporate practitioners and NGO representatives worked together, the latest version is reasonably balanced’, he said. ‘One area where it could still be improved is on the ways in which national versions of capitalism impact on the practice of CSR. In addition to Latin America, developments in other developing countries, such as South Africa, deserve mention.’

Wikipedia | Global | Dispute Resolution

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