Corporate responsibility has its beginnings in philanthropy, which in America has a long history. It began in earnest with individuals of great wealth, such as Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. They amassed outsized fortunes through their business activities and then used that wealth to create foundations to distribute large amounts of cash directed at specific issues they were interested in. Carnegie’s activities in support of public libraries are an example. The philanthropy of these individuals, which has survived for more than a century, is now complemented by Bill Gates and other individuals of great wealth. Foundations funded by great personal wealth can be transformative by providing needed support to worthy causes. But the tradition of amassing personal wealth and then distributing it through foundations seldom has involved incorporating a culture of citizenship and service into business practices.


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