The New York Times has a story about the notion that companies had some obligation to social good - popularized of late by companies such as Starbucks, but actually a concept that dates back to the early 1600s.

An excerpt:

“In America, some early examples of corporate social responsibility (also known today as corporate citizenship, conscious capitalism and purposeful businesses) date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the creation of company towns for workers and the Community Chest movement, one of the first large-scale endeavors by business people to be involved in local communities … By midcentury, business philanthropy and employee volunteerism, in which corporations give away resources like money, products and services, as well as their employees’ time and expertise, began to take hold.”

It is a fascinating look back at thew history of corporate social consciousness, as well as an exploration of methodology and motivations … and you can read it here