I saw this article on Microsoft donating money and thought it would be an interesting poll. If you use Live Messenger (formerly MSN IM), then Microsoft will donate a percentage of the ad revenue.
Actually even if you don't, they've agreed to donate $100,000 as a minimum. It's a marketing trick, but it's also a good thing that they don't have to do. I haven't seen much press on this (and I've been looking), and given Mr. Gates generosity, I think this is just a socially responsible thing by Microsoft. It doesn't substantially impact their shareholders and it's a good way to help others in the world.
So given this is Friday ...
Should a company be socially responsible?
A corporation is defined as an entity separate from its members with its own liabilities and powers. It has a number of rights to function as a member of society (appoint agents, sign contracts, etc.) and the ability to exist beyond the lifetimes of its owners.
It's also often said that a corporation exists to pursue profit. That can be true, but there are non-profit corporations. Corporations primarily exist to limit liabilities. You cannot lose more money than you put into the corporation, unlike other types of businesses. Corporations exist to meet a charter, which is something its founders create and register.
Google has an interesting philosophy, which is similar. JD Edwards had a ten part vision that was similar (sorry, can't find a link), but one that was mounted on a fountain outside and in which employees took pride. Microsoft has a Global citizenship initiative. I think lots of companies have something similar.
I think that a corporation should embody the values of its founders, but as it matures, it should be socially responsible. There is more to this life than our own selfish pursuits. Those exist, but just as most of us help others when we can, so should a corporation. Our compassion, mercy, feelings, and charity should be a part of the workplace.