How might the Trump era affect trends in responsible business (and its regulation)?
I am hesitant to give Trump more social media air-time than he already gets*, but the question is of broad relevance if indeed we're entering an era in which the state-business nexus has some particular features.
One of the things us regulation scholars navel-gaze about is the relative significance of public versus private forms of governance, and the scope for innovative hybrids of these in pursuit of both societal and commercial goals.
Last November, around his inauguration, I blogged on what Trump & co might mean for the responsible business agenda, in particular in relation to my own interest in policy and regulatory initiatives around that: here
(At around the time, at least one other blogger also wrote on this topic: see here
In that post I speculated whether business might lead, and civil society be reinvigorated, where a new administration distances itself from promoting responsible and sustainable business practices:
"... a reluctant or recalcitrant or reclusive government [on this agenda] might indeed stimulate all sorts of unexpected enlightened activity ... often led by business and investors. This may include a greater convergence of the BHR agenda with core commercial ideas about value-creation, productivity, competitiveness and so on..."
I wrote that because I saw a possible silver lining on what otherwise was a rather gloomy outlook for this agenda at least within the US.
I still think it holds merit.
This is a long lead-up to saying that my attention was drawn to this blog-post on
how corporate responsibility may in fact be mainstreamed in a Trump era, without necessarily waiting on government to lead (or the US government to lead, in a global context).I do accept rejoinders such as those of Mark Taylor @lawsofrule that see the many possible downsides here.
Of course there's a sub-set of questions here: Trump will matter to the US context in terms of responsible business conduct, but the sub-question is 'Does the US context matter globally?' The world's largest and most diverse economy does not necessarily lead on innovation in responsible business or regulation or policy innovation around this.
Still, the premise of this post is that what happens in the US, and in US corporate life and cultures, matters for its own sake and will continue to matter globally.
At the global governance level, there is an argument to be made that any Trump-related leadership gap on issues affecting the responsible business agenda globally (including climate change) might be taken up by Beijing. (See here
for a related comment on the potential for Trump isolationism to create leadership opportunities for Beijing).
On this blog's themes, it is so facile still to persist in assuming on responsible business issues that 'Western company or regulatory state = good', and 'Chinese state or firm = bad'. One still sees a lot of this lazy assumption, eg in the China-in-Africa debate. This ignores some interesting practice and policy-making from China, some of which may support a thesis that despite the weak underlying domestic media / civil society context, it is not inconceivable that leadership on some of these issues will come from a non-OECD country and its corporates.
* Of course Trump alleges a media conspiracy to distort or not report certain issues or views...