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As Brazil's energetic but fractious democracy emerged in the 1990s, the Ethos Institute launched a movement for corporate social responsibility (CSR) that, it hoped, would both cajole the private sector to manage its own operations responsibly—for example, eschewing racism and protecting the environment—and lead Brazil to a more just, sustainable society. By 2007 Ethos had transformed CSR into a prominent national movement, which had even helped strengthen enforcement of some laws such as the prohibition of child labor. Two cases tell Ethos' story. The first (A) case describes the social context—the Brazilian private sector's ambiguous legacy of genuine community conscience yet collaboration with authoritarian regimes—and poses questions about how Ethos' leaders shaped their relations with business. How could they best strengthen the idea that business had moral obligations to society? How could they marshal influence to secure compliance with CSR norms? How should they define corporate social responsibility? The second (B) case raises questions that came to the fore later: How should Ethos manage its engagement with Brazilian government? How could it work strengthen enforcement of laws bearing on corporate social responsibility without becoming embroiled in partisan politics or losing its effectiveness as a business vanguard?

Other Details

Case Author:
Jonathan Schlefer
Faculty Lead:
Mark Moore
Pages (incl. exhibits):
South America