“Implicit” and “Explicit” Csr: a Conceptual Framework for a Comparative Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility

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Academy of Management Review 2008, Vol. 33, No. 2, 404–424.

“IMPLICIT” AND “EXPLICIT” CSR: A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR A COMPARATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY DIRK MATTEN York University, Toronto JEREMY MOON University of Nottingham We address the question of how and why corporate social responsibility (CSR) differs among countries and how and why it changes. Applying two schools of thought in institutional theory, we conceptualize, first, the differences between CSR in the United States and Europe and, second, the recent rise of CSR in Europe. We also delineate the potential of our framework for application to other parts of the global economy.

In this paper we address the question of why forms of business responsibility for society both differ among countries and change within them. We do so by comparative investigation of corporate social responsibility (CSR), historically and contemporarily, in the United States and in Europe.1 The paper is inspired by two commonplace observations. The first observation is that while many U.S. corporations have both been attributed, and ready to claim, social responsibilities, this has not been so common elsewhere. Comparative research in CSR between Europe and the United State has identified remarkable differences between companies on each side of the Atlantic. This pertains, first, to the language companies use in describing their involvement in society. In a comparative study of corporate self-presentaWe thank former associate editor Thomas Donaldson and the anonymous reviewers for their input and support in developing the manuscript. We acknowledge constructive comments from Eva Boxenbaum, Thomas Dunfee, JeanPascal Gond, and Atle Midttun on earlier versions. We have presented these ideas at conferences, workshops, and seminars too numerous to mention. We would like to thank all those who contributed to the development of our argument. 1 By Europe, we refer to Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Although these do not represent the full European CSR experience, they strengthen our comparative design, since, like the United States, they are long-standing democratic, capitalist, welfare systems (the only postwar peace-time exception being the eastern part of Germany). 404

tions on the internet, Maignan and Ralston (2002) found that while 53 percent of U.S. companies mention CSR explicitly on their websites, only 29 percent of French and 25 percent of Dutch companies do the same. But these differences clearly transcend language: in a recent study of voluntary codes of conduct in the global coffee sector between 1994 and 2005, Kolk (2005a: 230) identified a total of fifteen corporate codes globally, of which only two were European (both by the same company, Nestle), while the remaining ´ thirteen codes were issued and adopted by exclusively U.S. corporations. In a similar vein, Brammer and Pavelin (2005) found, in a United States–United Kingdom comparison of one of the most long-standing areas of CSR— corporate community contributions—that the value of contributions by U.S. companies in 2001 was more than ten times greater than those of their U.K. counterparts (United States, $4,831 billion; United Kingdom, $428 million). The second commonplace observation is that corporations elsewhere in the world have recently begun to adopt the language and practice of CSR—particularly in Europe, but also in Africa, Australasia, South America, and South, East, and Southeast Asia (e.g., Chapple & Moon, 2005; Puppim de Oliveira & Vargas, 2005; Visser, Middleton, & McIntosh, 2005). Although we use CSR in the United States and Europe as the empirical backdrop of our argument, we also address the wider canvas.

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