Part 1: How Did Corporate Social Responsibility Evolve? (1790s)

Tyler Riddell and Michelle Riddell

By Tyler and Michelle Riddell

In “What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?”, we included a recent evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is what we have gathered from reading and listening to others. However, we wanted to back up and provide a more robust academic timeline. We will be diving into David Chandler’s version. Why David Chandler’s version? His textbook, “Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation,” provides a comprehensive understanding of CSR, which we have not discovered to date. Furthermore, since some of the events are too extensive, we will not be highlighting every event on Chandler’s timeline, but we will cover most! Let’s dive in! 


It’s surprising how long CSR has been around. Although the term Corporate Social Responsibility may be recent, “societies have always made demands of firms” (Chandler, 2020, p. 8). Interestingly, “Socrates declared that ‘the more [men] think of making a fortune, the less they think of virtue.’”(Chandler, 2020, p.8) Socrates’ words influenced other writings, specifically Chinese, Egyptian, and Sumerian, and each of these texts has similar perspectives that business has a responsibility to the community. 

“Socrates declared that ‘the more [men] think of making a fortune, the less they think of virtue.’”(Chandler, 2020, p.8)


In the 1790s, ‘[t]he first large-scale consumer boycott…[was in] England…over slave-harvested sugar’ (Chandler, 2020, p.8). During this boycott, there were “[approximately] 300,000 people [who] abandoned sugar[,]” which was a significant hit to the market (Kaye, 2011). Interestingly, for those who sold goods only by ‘freemen,’ their sales “increased tenfold over two years” (Kaye, 2011). Can you think of a term today that would be similar to this? Fair-trade maybe? We think this might be one of the first shifts towards a fair-trade model. Furthermore, we would like to point out that those businesses who adapted to consumer demands are the ones who survived. Now, did all these business owners understand their role in the community? Probably not. Yet, businesses thrive when they factor in each stakeholder, not just shareholders. 


CHANDLER, D. (2020). Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation (5th ed.). Sage Publications.


Kaye, M. (2011, February 17). History – British History in depth: The Tools of the Abolitionists.