There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.This position is frequently derided. However, I believe that if we deconstruct this a bit, we see that Friedman's position is the only truly cosmopolitan, liberal position.
The confusion comes from the fact that social responsibility is often confused with conspicuous social responsibility. Our public postures and signals of identity and loyalty tend to capture an undue amount of our attention, because these are the activities that define us within our social communities and among antagonistic factions. So, while the viewers of MSNBC and Fox News agree on 90% of how we live - things that may make modern Americans different than ancient hunter-gatherers or Middle Eastern nomads, or African peasants, or Japanese workers - the things we talk about are the 10% of things we disagree about. And, we are impassioned about those things. We get angry about the people that disagree with us. For the most part, we don't even notice the 90%. It takes real effort to notice it.
That 90% is what Friedman is talking about when he says "so long as it stays within the rules of the game". That is all that we can expect of them. In fact, they could do no more and no less. The natural equilibrium of the relationships a firm will establish with its owners, its employees, and its customers will have to incorporate that 90%, or problems will tend to erupt. The firm will have legal or public relations problems.
This 90% isn't a universal standard for local firms, because Americans do differ by the other 10%. So, the equilibrium level of social responsibility is different for a food co-op in Berkeley than it is for a gun shop in Bismark. But, it generally holds for national firms.
There are many examples of firms doing more than the equilibrium amount of social responsibility. The owners of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby surely thought that they were being especially socially responsible. But, that meant that they chose issues that are in the 10%. And, what did it get them? Protests and boycotts.
There are many endowments and funds that now engage in conspicuous social responsibility. Avoiding investments in fossil fuels or vices, for instance. These are also issues that tend to fit in the 10%. They play well for identity politics, but they frequently are based on decisions that even their backers wouldn't want to see applied universally.
The advocates of corporate social responsibility really are asking for corporate conspicuous social responsibility. Corporations are already engaged in social responsibility - just as you and I are. We all accept many standards of behavior and compromise in order to be a part of modern, cosmopolitan, liberal societies. We are, and most firms are, the true cosmopolitans - the true liberals.
Advocates for conspicuous social responsibility don't actually want corporations to follow their own consciences in being conspicuously socially responsible. That would get them boycotted. What these advocates want is for corporations to act out the advocates' preferred conspicuous social responsibility. The advocates are not liberal at all. Quite the contrary. The advocates are sectarian. They want control over other people. They want to deny firms the right to their own idiosyncratic moral notions, while pressuring firms to act on the advocates' idiosyncratic moral notions. Like all sectarians, the advocates don't accept the distinction between their own moral notions and universally accepted moral notions. They make the mistake of assuming that imposing their moral framework on everyone else is a moral advancement for everyone. They vastly underestimate the importance of the 90% of agreed upon norms, and focus unhealthily on that other 10%. Yet, obviously, that 10% applied universally and coercively is almost never appropriate. (Though we hold firmly in our hearts those rare times when it was.)
A second order effect of sectarianism is that sectarians develop an unrealistic view of the validity and practicality of their impositions, and thus develop negative caricatured opinions of those who are imposed upon. So, for instance, firms which provide some opportunities for low skilled workers, but do not single-handedly and completely counteract the imperfect set of opportunities of those workers can be an eternal source of self-satisfying indignation. Willful ignorance, together with angry demands, is its own reward.