The Why and How of Corporate Social Responsibility
In this paper, we explore the nature and practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We employ a problem-formulation perspective on alternative approaches to CSR and argue against reducing CSR into a tool for achieving desirable organizational outcomes. The purpose of the paper is twofold. First, we aim to illuminate the widespread conceptual misunderstanding that underpins a purely instrumental approach to CSR and the dysfunctional consequences thereof for organizations and their stakeholders. Moreover, we aim to develop a typology of approaches to CSR on the basis of two important dimensions of CSR in organizations: the motivation for attending to CSR, on the one hand, and the integration of CSR in the organization, on the other hand. We introduce two distinctions: (1) between extrinsically and intrinsically motivated CSR initiatives and (2) between CSR initiatives that influence organizational core activities and those that do not. Genuine corporate responsibility involves both an identification and management of the values at stake in organizational activities and an acknowledgement that organizations have binding relations to their stakeholders that have tangible consequences for organizational activities. Our paper contributes to the literature by exploring the conditions for both appearing as being and actually being responsible.
Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, motivation, problem formulation, reputation, values