Part 3: How Did Corporate Social Responsibility Evolve? (1886)

Tyler Riddell and Michelle Riddell

By Tyler and Michelle Riddell

In part 3, we will continue moving through David Chandler’s timeline of CSR. 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 this date. Moreover, 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 into the 1886. 


Following the Victorian Philanthropy, we move forward to a case in 1886 called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. In this court case, the state was arguing that the railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad (SPR), owed taxes on property owned by the company. However, the defense, SPR, disagreed and used the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to support their argument, specifically the part that “defined the scope of personhood” (Logan, 2018). Interestingly, the court ruled in SPR’s favor, leaving the amendment open to interpretation on what “person” means. Additionally, this ruling lined up with the mindset of “treating certain people as things and the things of certain people as persons…”(Logan, 2018).


Sadly, this case provides evidence of systemic racism. Essentially, “a law intended to help former slaves and their descendants functioned to empower corporate persons that, as policy, actively engaged in oppressing [Black] Americans and profiting from their exploitation” (Logan, 2018).


Now, why is this case is a key point on the timeline? This is an example of how companies impact a community or a people group. Companies are a stakeholder within the community, and without the proper understanding of the needs of community members or even the repercussions of the company’s actions, they can cause serious harm.


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


Logan, N. (2018, May 7). Corporate Personhood and the Corporate Responsibility to Race. Journal of Business Ethics.