The case study describes Brazils energetic but fractious democracy, which emerged in the 1990s. The Ethos Institute started a national movement for corporate social responsibility (CSR) that should enable the private sector to manage its own operations responsibly. How could leaders of the Ethos Institute strengthen the idea that businesses had moral obligations to society?
Jonathan Sclefer; Mark H. Moore
Harvard Business Review (HKS464-PDF-ENG)
May 05, 2009
Case questions answered:
- What was the Ethos Institute’s goal? Who was its target audience? How was a communications strategy used in service to this goal? Why was utilizing the media necessary?
- What were some of the advantages and obstacles Ethos faced?
- How did Ethos leverage “associate” companies? Why was this important?
- Do you think Ethos should have policed its membership? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of not policing its membership?
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The Ethos Institute (A): Challenging Business to Become the Vanguard of Social Progress in Brazil Case Answers
From: Nick Donias, Advisor to the Ethos Institute Board
To: Caio Magri, Executive Director of Ethos Institute
Subject: Action Memorandum Regarding Ethos Institute’s Procedural Issues
Date: March 28th, 2016
Ethos Institute struggles to define concrete metrics that encourage businesses to lead social progress in Brazil, which, if left unchanged, could potentially harm the reputation of Corporate Social Responsibly (“CSR”) in Brazil from creating real change to being nothing more than a marketing scheme for private companies.
Creating a small number of specific social impact goals is the best approach to generating clear, unified CSR principles any Ethos Institute member could target.
By focusing on a select number of themes, each company can create clearer goals under those themes and set their own metrics for measuring success, thus perpetuating the Ethos Institute’s brand as a symbol of real change in Brazil.
The shift of Brazil’s political system from a dictatorship to a democracy through the late 20th century brought about many changes to the country, including modifications to the private sector.
Against a backdrop of many social ills ranging from racism and child labor to income inequality, businessman Oded Grajew constantly asked what role business could play in advocating for social change.
From early on, Grajew made steady strides in upsetting the norm businesses played under political corporatism—the idea that the state is the moral compass of society.
Although political corporatism has roots in philanthropic undertones, in Brazil, the corrupt political system constantly worked under selfish pretense, often legitimizing social order by using their influence over private companies. Yet, Grajew’s ideas for business and social change echoed the foundation of Brazil’s new democracy.
Governance of the labor sector should come from the people themselves, the laborers. Grajew helped to promote these ideas by taking on Sao Paulo’s corporatist federation, FIESP, pressuring them to allow laborers to negotiate with firms without the state’s influence.
His continued efforts formed a precursor of Ethos, PNBE, whose first concrete action led to a successful campaign to end child labor.
Using these lessons, Grajew went on to form the Ethos Institute. The institute’s goal is to…
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