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Urban policies and corporate citizenship

From: Daniele Mezzana, Italy
Category: Category 2
Date: 13 Apr 2000
Time: 18:17:15
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Date: 13 April 2000 Subject: Urban policies and corporate citizenship From: Daniele Mezzana, Italy To: FRHS List

My name is Daniele Mezzana and I am working as researcher at CERFE. I have some remarks on partnership and actors for new urban policies, that are crucial topics of Habitat Agenda and Forum of Researchers on Human Settlements (see also recent remarks of Luciano d'Andrea).

I think we have to take more into account into account the role of private actors in urban policies. The core of economic enterprise is social in nature, as Nobel Prize winner R. Coase clarified in the 30s. The core of the enterprise includes elements such as the intentionality of the entrepreneur, rules and social norms, shared cultural values, social representations - i.e. all the patterns shaping the inner life and the action of the enterprise.

Therefore, we have to reckon with the deep changes in act today in such a social core.

In this framework we must understand the phenomenon of "corporate citizenship". Recent studies on "corporate citizenship" (including a research, presently carried out by CERFE) underlined the strong and meaningful presence of private actors for the improvement of urban environment where the companies are rooted and for the struggle against poverty and social exclusion.

An "ideological" approach to corporate citizenship has traditionally rejected or underevaluated it, viewing it as mere a tool in marketing strategies. But does not seem to be the case, as witnessed by the important human, cognitive, financial and material resources that an increasing number of enterprises are mobilizing for social objectives. The following practices are more and more usual (at least in Europe): financial support by companies to local NGOs and NGOs in developing countries; training for local public and non governmental leaders; support for projects in the field of urban environment (water, health, housing, transport, etc.); support for job creation programs; support for new enterprises; support to local schools and universities; environmental sensibilisation for young people; direct aid to extreme poor, etc.

It is impossible to think that such an engagement were only linked to mere economic and marketing reasons. Some values seem to be quite shared by many large companies (the situation of small and middle enterprises is under study): good citizenship, social responsibility, the link with the community, the struggle for a sustainable development and against poverty, a deep idea of quality of service, etc.

The phenomenon has to be analyzed more in depth, and more information on values and role of private actors in other countries could be very useful for our debate.

Anyway, I think that without an analysis of concrete role of such a kind of actors, we are unable to identify the real phenomenon of partnership already present in our cities.

Daniele Mezzana, CERFE

Last changed: March 13, 2002