A company's most valuable asset is its employees. Since the 1970s, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a topic of increasing interest in terms of performance and disclosure. However, little attention has been paid to the history of CSR practices, which should be studied within historical and cultural contexts. Based on archival material and secondary sources, and using arguments from moral economics and Catholic Social Theory, this study uniquely investigates the role of religious and ethical beliefs in influencing CSR actions and accountability. We focus on the case of Vaccari, an entrepreneurial Italian Catholic family in the early-twentieth century, which was clearly inspired by upward accountability (to God) and not just economic returns. The family took CSR actions to improve the welfare and living conditions of its workers (downward accountability). Vaccari's religious value system was strongly based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) contained in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, addressed to 'all men of good will'. Our historical analysis informs modern CSR practices, revealing that management's commitment to ethics and sound values is the correct starting point for developing good and sustainable business practices.
Social and moral accountability in action: the religious roots of corporate social responsibility in an Italian entrepreneurial family (1900–1950) / Lazzini, A.; Lazzini, S.; Balluchi, F.. - In: ACCOUNTING HISTORY REVIEW. - ISSN 2155-286X. - (2023), pp. 1-31. [10.1080/21552851.2023.2226708]