Drivers of Csr

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THE DRIVERS OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: A CRITICAL REVIEW Matthew Haigh, University of Amsterdam Marc T. Jones, Ashridge Business School Abstract The paper criticises the dominant discourse of corporate social responsibility (CSR) by examining six sets of factors conventionally considered as promoting outcomes consistent with core principles of social responsibility: intra-organizational factors, competitive dynamics, institutional investors, end-consumers, government regulators and non-governmental organizations. Each factor is addressed conceptually, empirically, and with respect to its likely future significance in promoting outcomes consistent with CSR. Our overall conclusions are not promising on any of these dimensions. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND STAKEHOLDERE MANAGEMENT Business ethicists borrow from the works of such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to assert that normative obligations on the firm imposed by the social contract require constructive responses to the needs of owner and non-owner groups (Palmer, 2001). Ethics and responsibility are most often unreflexively presented as atomised problems for individual decision-makers in the firm, solvable through straightforward application of logical rules and codes of conduct. Relevant definitions of responsibility are narrow: “issues of corporate responsibility are of smaller scope than the ethical foundations of capitalism” (Goodpaster, 1983, p. 3). Ethical questions are restricted to external corporate effects such as the means of production, in which relevant questions are held to arise in places such as stockholder and consumer protection and occupational health and safety. Exemplary behaviour is encoded in governance guidelines emanating from organisations such as stock exchanges. Departing from the deference that conventional approaches to CSR show toward corporate interests, Daly (1996) calls for systems thinking on sustainable economic development as a tenable approach to reconfiguring the capitalist apparatus. In contrast, the CSR-related research that we address flags moral justification with one hand as it defers to the mechanics of capital on the other. Four aspects describe conventional approaches. One, corporate entities are assumed responsible only for their own (acquisitive) behaviour and not for capitalism itself. This assumption would explain why most CSR researchers leave undefined categories of obligation and forms that the social contract should take and rarely consider alternatives to neo-liberalism (Lehman, 1999). Two, a related assumption is that self-regulation is a proper normative ideal for corporate entities (Gray, Owen and Maunders, 1988). Voluntary CSR reporting is assumed, without examination, to sufficiently acquit the firm of extra-legal responsibilities. Three, economics is not identified as a matter of choice. Institutional and legal status qua, market forces and the legality of corporations to accumulate private property are reified as part of the “fundamental legitimacy of capitalism” (Goodpaster, 1983, 3), in accordance with its neo-liberal underpinnings (Lehman, 1999). Moral agency is received with as little critical reflection. Finally, inherent contradictions between the pursuit of economic growth and goals of ecological maintenance and social justice are considered, if at all, as trivial. In their review of the business ethics literature, Bowie and Dunfee (2002) note that the CSR-related management-focused research (the subject of this essay) tends to avoid reflecting on conflicts between ethical and profit motives. DETERMINANTS OF CSR PRACTICES Influences on CSR practice tend to overlap or interact in quite complex ways; e.g., when investment firms spend media dollars to educate potential financial consumers as to the advantages of social investment funds. Yet, they are analytically distinct in terms of their internal logics and immediate empirical referents. We proceed by identifying...
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