In a Shifting World, Inform Thyself

Corporate social responsibility is more than a buzz word.  For better or worse, it has joined mainstream business lingo and is changing the landscape of the private, public, and social sector.  This week's Economist delves into the many facets of CSR in its special report on the issue.  The articles range in topic from the virtues of CSR to managing risks to ethics of consumers to the globalization of CSR.  Some articles are more informative than others, but taken as a whole, the issue gives readers insight into both the promise and the problems of the growth of the industry.

One of the most important statements in the report is the following:

A new, exhaustive academic review of 167 studies over the past 35 years concludes that there is in fact a positive link between companies' social and financial performance—but only a weak one. Firms are not richly rewarded for CSR, it seems, but nor does it typically destroy shareholder value. Might cleverer approaches to CSR in future produce better returns?

If CSR doesn't hurt, does it matter that it might not drastically improve the value of the business?  Isn't the social outcome the value? 
I am interested in buying fair trade, supporting companies that pay their workers well or investing in a SRI mutual fund because I don't want to make my own money on the back of others or the world.  And I, for one, find significant non-monetary value in that effort.  That's what keeps me reading reports like the one from the Economist.  The field is changing quickly, and the most we can do is get all the information out there that we can.