Interaction of Business and Civil Society

Yulia A. Lapotnikova, School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University


The article focuses on the issue of cooperation between civilian institutions and business-circles. Market relationship roughly interrupts well-established system of governance in countries. Companies are getting more and more authoritative nowadays. Being a part of the big system, every person should understand how that operates and what opportunities he has. The objective of the research is to form a comprehensive image of this system and analyze its causal connections for the sake of an ability to make some predictions for the present and future times both.

Key words: civil society, business-circles, social responsibility of business, CSR

Main body

Literature used during the research covers most of the question posed. One of the first works is a book written by A.A. Auzan ‘Social Contract’. This work exposes the topics about inner structure of civil society and its functioning mechanisms.

There were also many round-table discussions on this matter and after the results were united in the one book and published. For example, politicians presented at the conference of Liberalnaya Missia held a hot discussion about transformation of ‘equation’ among leaders of political, economical and social spheres.

The articles of relatively young generation of scientists present fresh insights. Following authors contribute to modern science: Evlaev A.N., Molokova M.A., Boytsova V.A. and etc.

The main two methods used in this article are analysis and abstraction. It provides with the opportunity to consider the topic from all the directions and to make reasonable conclusions.

There is a well-established triad resulting in coherence of government, business and society. It is generally accepted to consider the first element to be main and ruling, what is quite reasonable. But the mistake is to underestimate the others. Aim of any government is balancing between interest groups without losses for itself. Representatives of both business and society expressing their stakes tend to influence on the powers in the process of policy-making.  Consequently, there are two separate lines of relations. Although the collaboration of business community and organizations of civil society is not so obvious and noticeable, it has an important role in this whole system.

Civil society is bringing people together with a view to defend their interests and strive for the serving. The term ‘civil’ means not people in, but refers to ensuring favorable climate for their decent living. The structure of modern civil society includes a lot of spheres of acting according to the targets. One of these is economy. Undoubtedly, only the terms of market relations give an opportunity for formation of civil society, because there are private property and enterprise; a personal interest most frequently connected with economic situation is dominating.

First of all, it is important to remember that a representative of some civil organization can be for instance an entrepreneur at the same time. But the interests of folk should not be equated with the interests of business. However, policy dictates guidelines, and civil society along with businessmen cooperate for more effective working around these rules. But the first research question is if business and public co-work on purpose to influence on the government more heavily?

Another point, which should be taken into consideration, is social liability of business. It is voluntary investment made by companies to boost or improve the development of different aspects of people’s lives. The second question is if the civil society has on opportunity to directly pressure on business communities in order to get profits?

Returning to the first part of the research, it is reasonably to justify its correctness here. Nowadays international integration is chiefly translated into closer and closer economic cooperation between countries, financial and business organization, transnational corporation and etc. The conclusion is that the world is focused around economy. The huge common interest of business and civilian population is economical welfare and enrichment. The hypothesis is that civil society institutions turn to businessmen to join efforts with professionals in this area. (Auzan, 2005)

There are two direction of business – civil society line. The high level one is civil organization mediating in the discussion of business initiatives, where its representatives themselves and government participate. The most widespread example is Civil Chamber in Russia. The civil control is believed to be the key to healthy working system and power implementation. The other element is formation of small and medium enterprises. Some people believe, civil society institutions include small business also. That is typical for Russia because of historical specialties and communism. The point is that every self-determined social group is a part of civil society. But today it should be separated in people’s minds for the sake of the feeling of justice and independence. At the same time there is no denying the fact that companies and civilians have some same problems to address. For instance, refugee crisis affects both: corporations are interested in well-qualified workers and the society wants well-bread dwellers in order to avoid cultural disputes.  Here the two parties join their efforts. But from the other hand, indigenous people fight for working places, while companies attract foreign specialists.

Furthermore, Russian historical background dictates some trends in modern issues. First of all, communism ideology left a great mark on people’s worldview. There are problems in communication between civilians and businessmen because people remember the negative image of ‘a bourgeois’, someone who tries to stand out from the crowd. Some scientists claim that at least two generations more should rotate before this way of thinking completely changes. This problem is somehow connected with taxes. People complain about different types of taxes and its size. The opinion that the rich should pay because they have money still exists. But Russian modern tax system is not always as profitable for wealthy people as many civilians suppose. There is an informal aspect caused by interaction of business and powers. It is so-called forced sponsorship. Those who stand closely to corridors of power get errands connected with social work like renovation of kindergarten, building of stadium and etc. The western society has already named such a phenomenon corporate social responsibility. But this term is much wider and includes plenty of points. (Boytsova, 2015)

Traditionally two main spheres here business contribution to are infrastructure and policy-making. Companies share responsibilities of taking care of the society and providing the civilians basic social benefits and at the same time business representatives are involved in framing of the effective system of the interaction. Within direct cooperation with the power business-circles also act as a mediator between the three elements of the triangle. From the one hand, the mission is to convey civil interests to the government. But from the other hand, business function is to assure the legitimacy of powers before nation. The entrepreneurs also profit from this commitment because companies ensure for themselves competitive advantages at the market via gaining the trust of consumers. (A.N.Evlaev, 2006)

In this context one more term is today wide-spread. Corporate social responsibility is mainly connected with labor relations inside the company. CSR and social responsibility should not be combined because the first is only a brunch of the second.

CSR is dedicated to favorable work conditions for workers. The course contains creation of working places, timely payment of wages, provision of social benefits and types of insurances, maintenance of healthy climate in the team and so on.  This institution is rooted in trade-union movement, which participators advocated for their stuff rights. Highly developed CSR makes a company prestigious and causes respect, the is important especially for big corporation working at the international level. (Molokova, 2006)

There are many opinions over the motivation of business-circles to take part in social projects. In the theory it can be regarded as an act of good will and following conscience’s orders. But most of views express the confusion about lack of vested interests and it does undeniably make sense. Companies build a good image, draw common attention, attract new clients and sometimes even get feedback in the form of financial profit. Issue of moral rules shall be removed. All in all, sticking to the responsibility principle is both: duty and necessity.

Besides, social responsibility cannot be separated from ethical standards. Scientists distinguish several elements of this point. At first, it is compulsory for heads of companies to make their activity, the capital and the property transparent. It demonstrates people the openness to a dialogue. Secondly, corporations hoping for the civilian support have to observe the laws. The third point touches respectful and correct behavior with the parties concerned (consumers, investors, partners). The fourth one is informing customers about the goods, its quality and guarantees. Fifthly, volunteering is also encouraged. It concerns taking part in socially important holidays or the opposite tragedies. Corporations also often donate money for charity.

And the last but not least one here is environmental stuff. This issue is the first to unite powers, business and civil society. Nowadays environment security draws utmost attention of the whole world because of deteriorating situation. Government of countries launch different project dedicated to protection of the environment. No doubt, financial investment is demanded. Business joins these programs to help resolving problems of humanity and to deepen cooperation with administration.  (Russian civil society today , 2002)

A very popular movement today is an ecological business or eco-business. Large firms involve in the production new technologies in order to waste less or something like that according to the company’s focus. Civil organizations respect such targets and promote the goods with pleasure. Within that campaign business and civil society interact with strengthened activeness, organize joint events in support of the ecology. For example, RUSAL in conjunction with local eco-volunteers from about 12 cities prepared and carried out to the effect an eco-marathon, during which people were picking up garbage , putting out  burning trees and so on. In the end all the participants were awarded with presents from the company. (Wittenberg, 2010)

In return civil society can safeguard business circles to government. The main function is to uphold the rights and interests, and its implementation goes if civilians approve the activity of a company. Sometimes powers overinfluence on every process happening in a country, but joint efforts of businessmen and civil society representatives are meant to limit it and to make their own adjustments. ( Business Government and Society , 2019)


Business and civil society have enough power to collaboratively influence on bodies. They cooperate in two directions: impact on administration; draw attention of administration. Projects of the power inevitably cause some reflection: negative or positive, in general, corrections. But also projects of business created in response to people’s request demand patronage.

Secondly, civil society itself is able to call on business for help. The extreme measures are demonstrations and protests. But now civil institutions try to reach a negotiated result.

Another message is control over abuse. Business also consists of consumers and everything cannot be laid on companies. For example, one of interviewing businesswoman said that nowadays Russian government and folk both try to shift the responsibility for education to corporations. Students after their graduation need workplace introduction. Who has to ensure that and protect the youth from unemployment? But it all hang on a person: self-education, getting experience, development of skills and so on.

Three branches of power should be separated, but in linkage.


  1. A.A. Auzan (2005) Social contract and civil society // Electronic Library 'Civil Society in Russia'. Moscow p. 1-18.
  2. Boytsova V. A. (2015) Social responsibility of business: duty or necessity? // Scientific-methodical electronic magazine ‘Concept’ №14. p. 6-10.
  3. Evlaev A.N. (2006) Social responsibility of business as the basis for constructive interaction between the government and civil society // Round table: Power, Business, Civil society: models of interaction (domestic and foreign experience). Rostov-On-Don p. 68-75.
  4. Molokova M.A. (2006) Social responsibility of business as a search for the model of the balance of interests of society and power // Round table: Power, Business, Civil society: models of interaction (domestic and foreign experience). Rostov-On-Don P. 90-96.
  5. Russian civil society today (2002) // Social sciences and modernity. №6. p. 33-51.
  6. Wittenberg E.Y. (2010) Social responsibility of business: a broad view // Russia and the modern world. N 3. p. 124-141.