Five years into the 21st century and consumer debt levels in Australia are still escalating. Simultaneously, there is concern that an increasing number of consumers may be unable to meet their future financial commitments and also mounting alarm at the relative ease with which the majority of consumers can access additional credit facilities. At the same time, credit providers are avidly seeking greater profits by enticing consumers to borrow more and more. Against this background, the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the Australian consumer credit industry is discussed. The application of strategic stakeholder management theory to the activities of a specific class of lender – banks – is then discussed. The aim is to better understand why the contemporary demands of CSR will not lead banks to undertake a more vigilant approach to consumer lending advocated by consumer groups who, witnessing the impact of the growing level of consumer indebtedness on a number of consumers, are calling for more responsible lending practices. The opportunity to contribute to debate aimed at alleviating the risk of growing consumer indebtedness is highlighted. The paper concludes with an acknowledgement that, without intervention, factors such as competition in the free market for consumer credit, the demands of shareholders for profits, and consumers’ own folly in demanding immediate gratification and readily accepting additional credit as a means of financing their consumption, ensure that consumer debt levels will continue to rise.
International Journal of Consumer Studies Vol. 31, Issue 3, p. 230-236