Corporate Social Responsibility & Design

Today at the Values in Computer and Information System Design Graduate Student Workshop I’m attending at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, we convened an “industry panel” of Silicon Valley IT leaders to “reflect on how values bear on their own work in the corporate world.” In attendance were Anthony Bettencourt (CEO & President of Verity), Bill Coleman (BEA Systems), Melissa Cefkin (an anthropologist at IBM Almedan), and Raj Sampath (a consultant for Google).

One of the key issues raised is whether corporations (and their design teams) have social responsibilities beyond “creating jobs” or “increasing shareholder values.” Should, for example, a kids video game designer strive to design a “gender-neutral” or “non-sexual” character rather than simply follow “the marketplace” and make the (stereo)typical “sexed-up” characters which might foster increased gender differences among children. Such questions remained mostly unanswered, and there was significant divergence of opinions between some of our corporate guests and the philosophers and humanists in the audience.

This article on Bayosphere, “Corporate Social Responsibility in Bay Area and Beyond,” touches on many of the key points of our discussion:

Do corporations have duties to anyone but shareholders? Should social responsibility — community responsibility — be part of a corporation’s existence? Should corporate leaders be leaders in moving our society toward the goals of social, political and economic justice? Is philanthropy in need of a major shift in attitudes and methods? [continue reading…]

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