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The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility

case study related to csr activities

Matteo Tonello is Director of Corporate Governance for The Conference Board, Inc. This post is based on a Conference Board Director Note by Archie B. Carroll and Kareem M. Shabana , and relates to a paper by these authors, titled “The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of Concepts, Research and Practice,” published in the International Journal of Management Reviews .

In the last decade, in particular, empirical research has brought evidence of the measurable payoff of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to companies as well as their stakeholders. Companies have a variety of reasons for being attentive to CSR. This report documents some of the potential bottomline benefits: reducing cost and risk, gaining competitive advantage, developing and maintaining legitimacy and reputational capital, and achieving win-win outcomes through synergistic value creation.

The term “corporate social responsibility” is still widely used even though related concepts, such as sustainability, corporate citizenship, business ethics, stakeholder management, corporate responsibility, and corporate social performance, are vying to replace it. In different ways, these expressions refer to the ensemble of policies, practices, investments, and concrete results deployed and achieved by a business corporation in the pursuit of its stakeholders’ interests.

This report discusses the business case for CSR—that is, what justifies the allocation of resources by the business community to advance a certain socially responsible cause. The business case is concerned with the following question: what tangible benefits do business organizations reap from engaging in CSR initiatives? This report reviews the most notable research on the topic and provides practical examples of CSR initiatives that are also good for the business and its bottom line.

The Search for a Business Case: A Shift in Perspective

Business management scholars have been searching for a business case for CSR since the origins of the concept in the 1960s. [1]

An impetus for the research questions for this report was philosophical. It had to do with the long-standing divide between those who, like the late economist Milton Friedman, believed that the corporation should pursue only its shareholders’ economic interests and those who conceive the business organization as a nexus of relations involving a variety of stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers, and the community where the company operates) without which durable shareholder value creation is impossible. If it could be demonstrated that businesses actually benefited financially from a CSR program designed to cultivate such a range of stakeholder relations, the thinking of the latter school went, then Friedman’s arguments would somewhat be neutralized.

Another impetus to research on the business case of CSR was more pragmatic. Even though CSR came about because of concerns about businesses’ detrimental impacts on society, the theme of making money by improving society has also always been in the minds of early thinkers and practitioners: with the passage of time and the increase in resources being dedicated to CSR pursuits, it was only natural that questions would begin to be raised about whether CSR was making economic sense.

Obviously, corporate boards, CEOs, CFOs, and upper echelon business executives care. They are the guardians of companies’ financial well-being and, ultimately, must bear responsibility for the impact of CSR on the bottom line. At multiple levels, executives need to justify that CSR is consistent with the firm’s strategies and that it is financially sustainable. [a]

However, other groups care as well. Shareholders are acutely concerned with financial performance and sensitive to possible threats to management’s priorities. Social activists care because it is in their long-term best interests if companies can sustain the types of social initiatives that they are advocating. Governmental bodies care because they desire to see whether companies can deliver social and environmental benefits more cost effectively than they can through regulatory approaches. [b] Consumers care as well, as they want to pass on a better world to their children, and many want their purchasing to reflect their values.

[a] K. O’Sullivan, “Virtue rewarded: companies are suddenly discovering the profit potential of social responsibility.” CFO , October 2006, pp. 47–52.

[b] Simon Zadek. Doing Good and Doing Well: Making the Business Case for Corporate Citizenship . New York: The Conference Board Research Report, 2000, 1282-00-RR.

The socially responsible investment movement Establishing a positive relationship between corporate social performance (CSP) and corporate financial performance (CFP) has been a long-standing pursuit of researchers. This endeavor has been described as a “30-year quest for an empirical relationship between a corporation’s social initiatives and its financial performance.” [2] One comprehensive review and assessment of studies exploring the CSP-CFP relationship concludes that there is a positive relationship between CSP and CFP. [3]

In response to this empirical evidence, in the last decade the investment community, in particular, has witnessed the growth of a cadre of socially responsible investment funds (SRI), whose dedicated investment strategy is focused on businesses with a solid track record of CSR-oriented initiatives. Today, the debate on the business case for CSR is clearly influenced by these new market trends: to raise capital, these players promote the belief of a strong correlation between social and financial performance. [4]

As the SRI movement becomes more influential, CSR theories are shifting away from an orientation on ethics (or altruistic rationale) and embracing a performance-driven orientation. In addition, analysis of the value generated by CSR has moved from the macro to the organizational level, where the effects of CSR on firm financial performance are directly experienced. [5]

The CSR of the 1960s and 1970s was motivated by social considerations, not economic ones. “While there was substantial peer pressure among corporations to become more philanthropic, no one claimed that such firms were likely to be more profitable than their less generous competitors.” In contrast, the essence of the new world of CSR is “doing good to do well.” [6]

CSR is evolving into a core business function, central to the firm’s overall strategy and vital to its success. [7] Specifically, CSR addresses the question: “can companies perform better financially by addressing both their core business operations as well as their responsibilities to the broader society?” [8]

One Business Case Just Won’t Do

There is no single CSR business case—no single rationalization for how CSR improves the bottom line. Over the years, researchers have developed many arguments. In general, these arguments can be grouped based on approach, topics addressed, and underlying assumptions about how value is created and defined. According to this categorization, CSR is a viable business choice as it is a tool to:

  • implement cost and risk reductions;
  • gain competitive advantage;
  • develop corporate reputation and legitimacy; and
  • seek win-win outcomes through synergistic value creation. [9]

Other widely accepted approaches substantiating the business case include focusing on the empirical research linking CSR with corporate social performance (CSP) and identifying values brought to different stakeholder groups that directly or indirectly benefit the company’s bottom lines.

Broad versus narrow views Some researchers have examined the integration of CSR considerations in the day-to-day business agenda of organizations. The “mainstreaming” of CSR follows from one of three rationales:

  • the social values-led model, in which organizations adopt CSR initiatives regarding specific issues for non-economic reasons;
  • the business-case model, in which CSR initiatives are primarily assessed in an economic manner and pursued only when there is a clear link to firm financial performance [10] ; and
  • the syncretic stewardship model, which combines the social values-led and the business-case models.

The business case model and the syncretic models may be seen as two perspectives of the business case for CSR: one narrow and one broad. The business case model represents the narrow view: CSR is only recognized when there is a clear link to firm financial performance. The syncretic model is broad because it recognizes both direct and indirect relationships between CSR and firm financial performance. The advantage of the broad view is that it enables the firm to identify and exploit opportunities beyond the financial, opportunities that the narrow view would not be able to recognize or justify.

Another advantage of the broad view of the business case, which is illustrated by the syncretic model, is its recognition of the interdependence between business and society. [11]

The failure to recognize such interdependence in favor of pitting business against society leads to reducing the productivity of CSR initiatives. “The prevailing approaches to CSR are so fragmented and so disconnected from business and strategy as to obscure many of the greatest opportunities for companies to benefit society.” [12] The adoption of CSR practices, their integration with firm strategy, and their mainstreaming in the day-to-day business agenda should not be done in a generic manner. Rather, they should be pursued “in the way most appropriate to each firm’s strategy.” [13]

In support of the business case for CSR, the next sections of the report discuss examples of the effect of CSR on firm performance. The discussion is organized according to the framework referenced earlier, which identifies four categories of benefits that firms may attain from engaging in CSR activities. [14]

Reducing Costs and Risks

Cost and risk reduction justifications contend that engaging in certain CSR activities will reduce the firm’s inefficient capital expenditures and exposure to risks. “[T]he primary view is that the demands of stakeholders present potential threats to the viability of the organization, and that corporate economic interests are served by mitigating the threats through a threshold level of social or environmental performance.” [15]

Equal employment opportunity policies and practices CSR activities in the form of equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies and practices enhance long-term shareholder value by reducing costs and risks. The argument is that explicit EEO statements are necessary to illustrate an inclusive policy that reduces employee turnover through improving morale. [16] This argument is consistent with those who observe that “[l]ack of diversity may cause higher turnover and absenteeism from disgruntled employees.” [17]

Energy-saving and other environmentally sound production practices Cost and risk reduction may also be achieved through CSR activities directed at the natural environment. Empirical research shows that being environmentally proactive results in cost and risk reduction. Specifically, data shows hat “being proactive on environmental issues can lower the costs of complying with present and future environmental regulations … [and] … enhance firm efficiencies and drive down operating costs.” [18]

Community relations management Finally, CSR activities directed at managing community relations may also result in cost and risk reductions. [19] For example, building positive community relationships may contribute to the firm’s attaining tax advantages offered by city and county governments to further local investments. In addition, positive community relationships decrease the number of regulations imposed on the firm because the firm is perceived as a sanctioned member of society.

Cost and risk reduction arguments for CSR have been gaining wide acceptance among managers and executives. In a survey of business executives by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 73 percent of the respondents indicated that “cost savings” was one of the top three reasons companies are becoming more socially responsible. [20]

Gaining Competitive Advantage

As used in this section of the report, the term “competitive advantage” is best understood in the context of a differentiation strategy; in other words, the focus is on how firms may use CSR practices to set themselves apart from their competitors. The previous section, which focused on cost and risk reduction, illustrated how CSR practices may be thought of in terms of building a competitive advantage through a cost management strategy. “Competitive advantages” was cited as one of the top two justifications for CSR in a survey of business executives reported in a Fortune survey. [21] In this context, stakeholder demands are seen as opportunities rather than constraints. Firms strategically manage their resources to meet these demands and exploit the opportunities associated with them for the benefit of the firm. [22] This approach to CSR requires firms to integrate their social responsibility initiatives with their broader business strategies.

Reducing costs and risks • Equal employment opportunity policies and practices • Energy-saving and other environmentally sound production practices • Community relations management

Gaining competitive advantage • EEO policies • Customer relations program • Corporate philanthropy

Developing reputation and legitimacy • Corporate philanthropy • Corporate disclosure and transparency practices

Seeking win-win outcomes through synergistic value creation • Charitable giving to education • Stakeholder engagement

EEO policies Companies that build their competitive advantage through unique CSR strategies may have a superior advantage, as the uniqueness of their CSR strategies may serve as a basis for setting the firm apart from its competitors. [23] For example, an explicit statement of EEO policies would have additional benefits to the cost and risk reduction discussed earlier in this report. Such policies would provide the firm with a competitive advantage because “[c]ompanies without inclusive policies may be at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining employees from the widest talent pool.” [24]

Customer and investor relations programs CSR initiatives can contribute to strengthening a firm’s competitive advantage, its brand loyalty, and its consumer patronage. CSR initiatives also have a positive impact on attracting investment. Many institutional investors “avoid companies or industries that violate their organizational mission, values, or principles… [They also] seek companies with good records on employee relations, environmental stewardship, community involvement, and corporate governance.” [25]

Corporate philanthropy Companies may align their philanthropic activities with their capabilities and core competencies. “In so doing, they avoid distractions from the core business, enhance the efficiency of their charitable activities and assure unique value creation for the beneficiaries.” [26] For example, McKinsey & Co. offers free consulting services to nonprofit organizations in social, cultural, and educational fields. Beneficiaries include public art galleries, colleges, and charitable institutions. [27] Home Depot Inc. provided rebuilding knowhow to the communities victimized by Hurricane Katrina. Strategic philanthropy helps companies gain a competitive advantage and in turn boosts its bottom line. [28]

CSR initiatives enhance a firm’s competitive advantage to the extent that they influence the decisions of the firm’s stakeholders in its favor. Stakeholders may prefer a firm over its competitors specifically due to the firm’s engagement in such CSR initiatives.

Developing Reputation and Legitimacy

Companies may also justify their CSR initiatives on the basis of creating, defending, and sustaining their legitimacy and strong reputations. A business is perceived as legitimate when its activities are congruent with the goals and values of the society in which the business operates. In other words, a business is perceived as legitimate when it fulfills its social responsibilities. [29]

As firms demonstrate their ability to fit in with the communities and cultures in which they operate, they are able to build mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders. Firms “focus on value creation by leveraging gains in reputation and legitimacy made through aligning stakeholder interests.” [30] Strong reputation and legitimacy sanction the firm to operate in society. CSR activities enhance the ability of a firm to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of consumers, investors, and employees. Time and again, consumers, employees, and investors have shown a distinct preference for companies that take their social responsibilities seriously. A Center for Corporate Citizenship study found that 66 percent of executives thought their social responsibility strategies resulted in improving corporate reputation and saw this as a business benefit. [31]

Corporate philanthropy Corporate philanthropy may be a tool of legitimization. Firms that have negative social performance in the areas of environmental issues and product safety use charitable contributions as a means for building their legitimacy. [32]

Corporate disclosure and transparency practices Corporations have also enhanced their legitimacy and reputation through the disclosure of information regarding their performance on different social and environmental issues, sometimes referred to as sustainability reporting. Corporate social reporting refers to stand-alone reports that provide information regarding a company’s economic, environmental, and social performance. The practice of corporate social reporting has been encouraged by the launch of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in 1997-1998 and the introduction of the United Nations Global Compact in 1999. Through social reporting, firms can document that their operations are consistent with social norms and expectations, and, therefore, are perceived as legitimate.

Seeking Win-Win Outcomes through Synergistic Value Creation

Synergistic value creation arguments focus on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands. Firms do this by “connecting stakeholder interests, and creating pluralistic definitions of value for multiple stakeholders simultaneously.” [33] In other words, with a cause big enough, they can unite many potential interest groups.

Charitable giving to education When companies get the “where” and the “how” right, philanthropic activities and competitive advantage become mutually reinforcing and create a virtuous circle. Corporate philanthropy may be used to influence the competitive context of an organization, which allows the organization to improve its competitiveness and at the same time fulfill the needs of some of its stakeholders. For example, in the long run, charitable giving to education improves the quality of human resources available to the firm. Similarly, charitable contributions to community causes eventually result in the creation and preservation of a higher quality of life, which may sustain “sophisticated and demanding local customers.” [34]

The notion of creating win-win outcomes through CSR activities has been raised before. Management expert Peter Drucker argues that “the proper ‘social responsibility’ of business is to … turn a social problem into economic opportunity and economic benefit, into productive capacity, into human competence, into well-paid jobs, and into wealth.” [35] It has been argued that, “it will not be too long before we can begin to assert that the business of business is the creation of sustainable value— economic, social and ecological.” [36]

An example: the win-win perspective adopted by the life sciences firm Novo Group allowed it to pursue its business “[which] is deeply involved in genetic modification and yet maintains highly interactive and constructive relationships with stakeholders and publishes a highly rated environmental and social report each year.” [37]

Stakeholder engagement The win-win perspective on CSR practices aims to satisfy stakeholders’ demands while allowing the firm to pursue financial success. By engaging its stakeholders and satisfying their demands, the firm finds opportunities for profit with the consent and support of its stakeholder environment.

The business case for corporate social responsibility can be made. While it is valuable for a company to engage in CSR for altruistic and ethical justifications, the highly competitive business world in which we live requires that, in allocating resources to socially responsible initiatives, firms continue to consider their own business needs.

In the last decade, in particular, empirical research has brought evidence of the measurable payoff of CSR initiatives on firms as well as their stakeholders. Firms have a variety of reasons for being CSR-attentive. But beyond the many bottom-line benefits outlined here, businesses that adopt CSR practices also benefit our society at large.

[1] See Edward Freeman, Strategic Management: a Stakeholder Approach , 1984, which traces the roots of CSR to the 1960s and 1970s, when many multinationals were formed. (go back)

[2] J. D. Margolis and Walsh, J.P. “Misery loves companies: social initiatives by business.” Administrative Science Quarterly , 48, 2003, pp. 268–305. (go back)

[3] J. F. Mahon and Griffin, J .J. “Painting a portrait: a reply.” Business and Society , 38, 1999, 126–133. (go back)

[4] See, for an overview, Stephen Gates, Jon Lukomnik, and David Pitt- Watson, The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors Are Reshaping The Business Agenda , Harvard Business School Press, 2006. (go back)

[5] M.P. Lee, “A review of the theories of corporate social responsibility: its evolutionary path and the road ahead”. International Journal of Management Reviews , 10, 2008, 53–73. (go back)

[6] D.J. Vogel, “Is there a market for virtue? The business case for corporate social responsibility.” California Management Review , 47, 2005, pp. 19–45. (go back)

[7] Ibid. (go back)

[8] Elizabeth Kurucz; Colbert, Barry; and Wheeler, David “The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility.” Chapter 4 in Crane, A.; McWilliams, A.; Matten, D.; Moon, J. and Siegel, D. The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, 83-112 (go back)

[9] Kurucz, Colbert, and Wheeler , 85-92. (go back)

[10] Berger,I.E., Cunningham, P. and Drumwright, M.E. “Mainstreaming corporate and social responsibility: developing markets for virtue,” California Management Review , 49, 2007, 132-157. (go back)

[11] Ibid. (go back)

[12] M.E. Porter and Kramer, M.R. “Strategy & society: the link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility.” Harvard Business Review , 84, 2006,pp. 78–92. (go back)

[13] Ibid. (go back)

[14] Kurucz, Colbert, and Wheeler, 85-92. (go back)

[15] Ibid., 88. (go back)

[16] T. Smith, “Institutional and social investors find common ground. Journal of Investing , 14, 2005, 57–65. (go back)

[17] S. L. Berman, Wicks, A.C., Kotha, S. and Jones, T.M. “Does stakeholder orientation matter? The relationship between stakeholder management models and firm financial performance.” Academy of Management Journal , 42, 1999, 490. (go back)

[18] Ibid. (go back)

[19] Ibid. (go back)

[20] Top 10 Reasons, PricewaterhouseCoopers 2002 Sustainability Survey Report, reported in “Corporate America’s Social Conscience,” Fortune , May 26, 2003, 58. (go back)

[21] Top 10 Reasons . (go back)

[22] Kurucz, Colbert, and Wheeler (go back)

[23] N. Smith, 2003, 67. (go back)

[24] T. Smith, 2005, 60. (go back)

[25] Ibid., 64. (go back)

[26] Heike Bruch and Walter, Frank (2005). “The Keys to Rethinking Corporate Philanthropy.” MIT Sloan Management Review , 47(1): 48-56 (go back)

[27] Ibid., 50. (go back)

[28] Bruce Seifert, Morris, Sara A.; and Bartkus, Barbara R. (2003). “Comparing Big Givers and Small Givers: Financial Correlates of Corporate Philanthropy.” Journal of Business Ethics , 45(3): 195-211. (go back)

[29] Archie B. Carroll and Ann K. Buchholtz, Business and Society: Ethics, Sustainability and Stakeholder Management , 8th Edition, Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2012, 305. (go back)

[30] Kurucz, Colbert, and Wheeler, 90. (go back)

[31] “Managing Corporate Citizenship as a Business Strategy,” Boston: Center for Corporate Citizenship, 2010. (go back)

[32] Jennifer C. Chen, Dennis M.; & Roberts, Robin. “Corporate Charitable Contributions: A Corporate Social Performance or Legitimacy Strategy?” Journal of Business Ethics , 2008, 131-144. (go back)

[33] Kurucz, Colbert, and Wheeler , 91. (go back)

[34] Porter and Kramer, 60-65. (go back)

[35] Peter F. Drucker, “The New Meaning of Corporate Social Responsibility.” California Management Review , 1984, 26: 53-63 (go back)

[36] C. Wheeler, B. Colbert, and R. E. Freeman. “Focusing on Value: Reconciling Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability and a Stakeholder Approach in a Network World.” Journal of General Management , (28)3, 2003, 1-28. (go back)

[37] Ibid. (go back)

Nice blog. CSR has become something very important to all the corporate houses today. However, with the rising growth of CSR activities. It is very important to have an effective software that helps to keep a track of the entire exercise.

Interesting article! Perhaps nice to give Mr. Stephen ‘Gates’ his real name back? After all “The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors Are Reshaping The Business Agenda” was written by Stephen DAVIS. I think he would like the recognition ;)

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5 Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility That Were Successful

Balancing People and Profit

  • 06 Jun 2019

Business is about more than just making a profit. Climate change, economic inequality, and other global challenges that impact communities worldwide have compelled companies to be purpose-driven and contribute to the greater good .

In a recent study by Deloitte , 93 percent of business leaders said they believe companies aren't just employers, but stewards of society. In addition, 95 percent reported they’re planning to take a stronger stance on large-scale issues in the coming years and devote significant resources to socially responsible initiatives. With more CEOs turning their focus to the long term, it’s important to consider what you can do in your career to make an impact .

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business model in which for-profit companies seek ways to create social and environmental benefits while pursuing organizational goals, like revenue growth and maximizing shareholder value .

Today’s organizations are implementing extensive corporate social responsibility programs, with many companies dedicating C-level executive roles and entire departments to social and environmental initiatives. These executives are commonly referred to as a chief officer of corporate social responsibility or chief sustainability officer (CSO).

There are many types of corporate social responsibility and CSR might look different for each organization, but the end goal is always the same: Do well by doing good . Companies that embrace corporate social responsibility aim to maintain profitability while supporting a larger purpose.

Rather than simply focusing on generating profit, or the bottom line, socially responsible companies are concerned with the triple bottom line , which considers the impact that business decisions have on profit, people, and the planet.

It’s no coincidence that some of today’s most profitable organizations are also socially responsible. Here are five examples of successful corporate social responsibility you can use to drive social change at your organization.

5 Corporate Social Responsibility Examples

1. lego’s commitment to sustainability.

As one of the most reputable companies in the world, Lego aims to not only help children develop through creative play, but foster a healthy planet.

Lego is the first, and only, toy company to be named a World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Partner , marking its pledge to reduce its carbon impact. And its commitment to sustainability extends beyond its partnerships.

By 2030, the toymaker plans to use environmentally friendly materials to produce all of its core products and packaging—and it’s already taken key steps to achieve that goal.

Over the course of 2013 and 2014, Lego shrunk its box sizes by 14 percent , saving approximately 7,000 tons of cardboard. Then, in 2018, the company introduced 150 botanical pieces made from sustainably sourced sugarcane —a break from the petroleum-based plastic typically used to produce the company’s signature building blocks. The company has also recently committed to removing all single-use plastic packaging from its materials by 2025, among other initiatives .

Along with these changes, the toymaker has committed to investing $164 million into its Sustainable Materials Center , where researchers are experimenting with bio-based materials that can be implemented into the production process.

Through all of these initiatives, Lego is well on its way to tackling pressing environmental challenges and furthering its mission to help build a more sustainable future.

Related : What Does "Sustainability" Mean in Business?

2. Salesforce’s 1-1-1 Philanthropic Model

Beyond being a leader in the technology space, cloud-based software giant Salesforce is a trailblazer in the realm of corporate philanthropy.

Since its outset, the company has championed its 1-1-1 philanthropic model , which involves giving one percent of product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employees’ time to communities and the nonprofit sector.

To date, Salesforce employees have logged more than 5 million volunteer hours . Not only that, but the company has awarded upwards of $406 million in grants and donated to more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

In addition, through its work with San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified School Districts, Salesforce has helped reduce algebra repeat rates and contributed to a high percentage of students receiving A’s or B’s in computer science classes.

As the company’s revenue continues to grow, Salesforce stands as a prime example of the idea that profit-making and social impact initiatives don’t have to be at odds with one another.

3. Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission

At Ben & Jerry’s, positively impacting society is just as important as producing premium ice cream.

In 2012, the company became a certified B Corporation , a business that balances purpose and profit by meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.

As part of its overarching commitment to leading with progressive values, the ice cream maker established the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation in 1985, an organization dedicated to supporting grassroots movements that drive social change.

Each year, the foundation awards approximately $2.5 million in grants to organizations in Vermont and across the United States. Grant recipients have included the United Workers Association, a human rights group striving to end poverty, and the Clean Air Coalition, an environmental health and justice organization based in New York.

The foundation’s work earned it a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Award in 2014, and it continues to sponsor efforts to find solutions to systemic problems at both local and national levels.

Related : How to Create Social Change: 4 Business Strategies

4. Levi Strauss’s Social Impact

In addition to being one of the most successful fashion brands in history, Levi’s is also one of the first to push for a more ethical and sustainable supply chain.

In 1991, the brand created its Terms of Engagement , which established its global code of conduct regarding its supply chain and set standards for workers’ rights, a safe work environment, and an environmentally-friendly production process.

To maintain its commitment in a changing world, Levi’s regularly updates its Terms of Engagement. In 2011, on the 20th anniversary of its code of conduct, Levi’s announced its Worker Well-being initiative to implement further programs focused on the health and well-being of supply chain workers.

Since 2011, the Worker Well-being initiative has been expanded to 12 countries and more than 100,000 workers have benefited from it. In 2016, the brand scaled up the initiative, vowing to expand the program to more than 300,000 workers and produce more than 80 percent of its product in Worker Well-being factories by 2025.

For its continued efforts to maintain the well-being of its people and the environment, Levi’s was named one of Engage for Good’s 2020 Golden Halo Award winners, which is the highest honor reserved for socially responsible companies.

5. Starbucks’s Commitment to Ethical Sourcing

Starbucks launched its first corporate social responsibility report in 2002 with the goal of becoming as well-known for its CSR initiatives as for its products. One of the ways the brand has fulfilled this goal is through ethical sourcing.

In 2015, Starbucks verified that 99 percent of its coffee supply chain is ethically sourced , and it seeks to boost that figure to 100 percent through continued efforts and partnerships with local coffee farmers and organizations.

The brand bases its approach on Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) Practices , one of the coffee industry’s first set of ethical sourcing standards created in collaboration with Conservation International . CAFE assesses coffee farms against specific economic, social, and environmental standards, ensuring Starbucks can source its product while maintaining a positive social impact.

For its work, Starbucks was named one of the world’s most ethical companies in 2021 by Ethisphere.

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The Value of Being Socially Responsible

As these firms demonstrate , a deep and abiding commitment to corporate social responsibility can pay dividends. By learning from these initiatives and taking a values-driven approach to business, you can help your organization thrive and grow, even as it confronts global challenges.

Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of the broader social and political landscape in which your organization operates? Explore our three-week Sustainable Business Strategy course and other online courses regarding business in society to learn more about how business can be a catalyst for system-level change.

This post was updated on April 15, 2022. It was originally published on June 6, 2019.

case study related to csr activities

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Mapping corporate social responsibility practices at the international level: systematic review and content analysis approach

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN : 2040-8021

Article publication date: 29 April 2022

Issue publication date: 25 May 2022

It has been more than 20 years since the idea of binding multinational corporations directly to international law was abandoned. Since then, concerned actors have sought to manage corporate conduct through voluntary regulation. However, little is known about the instruments produced in this regard. This study aims to understand the properties of the instruments that govern or regulate corporate social responsibility at the international level.


Systematic literature review and content analysis methods were combined to compile a list of 229 international corporate social responsibility instruments (ICSRIs) produced by intergovernmental (IGOs) and international nongovernmental (INGOs) organizations. These instruments were categorized according to an adapted classification framework.

The majority of instruments from our sample are produced by INGOs, focus on management activities and are applicable to specific industries. The most common issues addressed by the instruments are related to worker protection, human rights, governance and the environment. A limited number of instruments specify stakeholders’ involvement or feature an external orientation. Instruments rarely address issues related to product quality and safety, economic contribution or social performance.

Practical implications

Without a comprehensive overview, it has been difficult to develop broad-based understandings about voluntary regulation as a mechanism for controlling corporate conduct internationally. This study’s findings offer valuable insights, allowing policymakers and industry practitioners to understand the effectiveness of, and make appropriate enhancements to, ICSRIs.

Social implications

By enhancing ICSRIs to address the limitations highlighted in the current study, multinational corporations can be induced into contributing more productively to the sustainable development of the societies they impact and play a greater role in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Previous research has largely concentrated on analyzing small numbers of carefully selected instruments in a conceptual or descriptive approach. In contrast, this study represents a novel approach of systematic compilation and quantitative classification for a comprehensive list of ICSRIs.

  • Multinational governance
  • Private regulation
  • Transnational governance
  • Voluntary regulation
  • Reporting standards

El-Said, O. , Aziz, H. , Mirzaei, M. and Smith, M. (2022), "Mapping corporate social responsibility practices at the international level: systematic review and content analysis approach", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal , Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 803-825. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-08-2021-0332

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Osman El-Said, Heba Aziz, Maryam Mirzaei and Michael Smith.

Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode

1. Introduction

The new millennium marked a dramatic shift in the discussion about corporate social responsibility (CSR). The idea that corporations had obligations toward society at large had already taken root ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ). In the global north, the public’s demand for corporate accountability had since been reflected by legislation and government policy ( Knudsen, 2017 ). In the global south, however, corporate misconduct continued to be a cause for concern ( Omoteso and Yusuf, 2017 ). Driven by the attraction of cheaper production opportunities, corporations increasingly turned their attentions toward developing countries ( Bae et al. , 2021 ; Nolan, 2017 ; Ruggie, 2017 ). It was not long before reports of exploitive and harmful business practices shocked consumers the world over ( Hackett and Moffett, 2016 ; Ullah et al. , 2021 ). Unfortunately, attempts by the international community to control the behavior of these multinational corporations (MNCs) through international law proved unenforceable, and repeated attempts to homogenize obligations across all nations were unfeasible ( Bair, 2015 ). At this point, the concerned parties adopted the perspective that the only effective way to manage corporate conduct was through market and social pressures ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ). Consequently, the idea of binding corporations to the law at an international level faded, and questions regarding voluntary regulation began to surface ( Bartley, 2022 ; Eller, 2017 ).

Many MNCs created individual codes of conduct for themselves, to appease their customers’ demands for formal CSR commitments ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ; Tamvada, 2020 ). However, commentators soon began to question the implementation and overall impact of this self-regulation ( Bae et al. , 2021 ; Hackett and Moffett, 2016 ). While some suspected that these codes were nothing but lip service ( Lebaron et al. , 2017 ), others were concerned with the applicability of code elements ( Tamvada, 2020 ). Civil society organizations, nonprofits, industry associations, intergovernmental bodies and even private companies all realized that they could achieve their objectives by designing or participating in the formulation of instruments that could be applied to a wide range of corporations regardless of geographic location or reach ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ; Camilleri, 2017 ; Choudhury, 2018 ). The analysis of these instruments is the subject of this study.

Much of the existing research is limited to in-depth investigations of individual instruments ( Brown et al. , 2018 ) or comparative investigations of a small number of instruments ( Fransen et al. , 2019 ; Pope and Lim, 2020 ). Few research has concentrated on exploring all the instruments in use within a particular area ( Raynolds et al. , 2014 ; Knudsen, 2017 ), and fewer studies have attempted to investigate all the instruments in use at a global level ( Perez et al. , 2019 ). Without a comprehensive overview of the range and characteristics of these international CSR instruments (ICSRIs), thorough understanding and appreciation of the voluntary regulation phenomenon remains limited.

What are properties of the instruments regulating corporate social responsibility at the international level?

The main objectives of the paper are to: identify a dependable and extensive body of work, build a comprehensive list of instruments and classify these instruments. Answering the question contributes to theory and practice. Regarding theory, our study serves as a schematic for the systematic identification and the quantitative analysis of CSR instruments. Furthermore, the findings of our study will extend those from previous conceptual and descriptive research, offering insight into scale to complement existing knowledge of depth. With respect to practice, the findings of our study will offer new understanding of existing ICSRIs. Concerned actors will be able to appreciate the scope of these instruments and identify the issues and activities that they typically neglect. This will enable policymakers, civil society activists and industry influencers to improve or develop instruments that balance out the shortcomings of existing ones. The findings of this study can have an impact on the improvement of voluntary CSR regulation at a global level leading MNCs to fulfill their social obligations more effectively. This will, in turn, contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

2. Literature review

2.1 theoretical background.

Carroll (1979) stated that CSR “encompasses the economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary expectations that society has of organizations at a given point in time.” Just over a decade later, Carroll (1991) arranged the components of his definition into the well-known pyramid structure that has epitomized his work. Economic expectations were placed at the base of the pyramid, and discretionary expectations were placed at the top. He also introduced a new concept into his definition that would become a core theme in many of his later publications ( Carroll , 1999, 2016 ; Carroll and Shabana, 2010 ; Schwartz and Carroll, 2003 ). He stated that organizations should manage their social expectations in relation to their stakeholders. In this way, a connection was made between his CSR pyramid and stakeholder theory.

Stakeholder theory can be traced back to the pioneering work of Freeman (2010) , who proposed that businesses were dependent on their stakeholders for their ultimate survival, and therefore had a responsibility to create value for them. He defined stakeholders as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of a firm’s objectives” including, but not limited to, customers, employees, investors, suppliers and local communities ( Freeman, 2010 , p. 25). This idea gained widespread academic popularity after the new millennium as public perceptions of corporations became increasingly negative in the wake of several scandals ( Parmar et al. , 2010 ). Although it has been suggested that stakeholder theory and CSR are complimentary frameworks, rather than co-dependent concepts, the idea that businesses have responsibilities to their stakeholders has become a fundamental principle of modern CSR understanding ( Dmytriyev et al. , 2021 ).

The social license to operate (SLO) concept is a useful framework to understand how industry approaches CSR ( Gehman et al. , 2017 ). The SLO was examined by Joyce and Thomson (2000) , who explained that, with respect to mining companies, it referred to “the approval [and] the broad acceptance of society to conduct its activities.” While the concept was originally developed by mining industry consultants between 2000 and 2013, it has since been applied to a wider range of industries ( Gehman et al. , 2017 ). Although it seems quite similar to stakeholder theory, the SLO concept is distinct in two ways. First, the focus has typically been on “local communities […] and those stakeholders who can affect profitability,” rather than all stakeholders ( Voyer and van-Leeuwen, 2019 ). Second, it concerns the reputation of an organization, rather than its responsibilities ( Hurst et al. , 2020 ).

Institutional theory is a useful lens to understand how policymakers approach CSR ( Contrafatto et al. , 2019 ). Meyer and Rowan (1977) stated that organizations could only become legitimate, and therefore survive, if they aligned themselves with the norms and practices of their environment, a process they labeled isomorphism. They mentioned that these norms and practices were set by social, economic and cultural institutions. The link between institutional theory and CSR was first made by DiMaggio and Powell (1983) , who discussed how coercive, mimetic and normative isomorphism influenced how organizations responded to social expectations. Coercive isomorphism is the pressure exerted by both formal and informal authoritative entities that an organization depends on. Mimetic isomorphism is an organization’s desire to mimic other organizations, who they perceive as more advanced or competent. Normative isomorphism is an organization’s desire to standardize the conditions and methods of their industry. A critical implication of this theory is that organizations, within a particular environment ( Scott, 2008 ), and even across different environments ( Matten and Moon, 2008 ), will eventually homogenize.

2.2 Managing corporate social responsibility across borders

MNCs have challenged the way that governments across the globe think about national and international regulation ( Crane et al. , 2019 ). MNCs typically take one of two forms, namely, actor-based or network-based ( Ruggie, 2017 ). In the actor-based model, the corporation is headquartered in one country, but is directly linked to its subsidiaries that are based in other countries. In the network-based approach, the corporation is headquartered in one country, but is indirectly linked to a vast web of suppliers across multiple countries, which are often, themselves, subsidiaries of other companies that are headquartered in yet other countries. Therefore, the “parent” company is legally separated from its subsidiaries and suppliers, as they are in different regulatory jurisdictions ( Nolan, 2017 ). In this regard, there are two main criticisms. First, MNCs can protect themselves from liabilities in institutionally strong countries ( Ruggie, 2017 ). Second, MNCs can exploit vulnerabilities in institutionally weak countries ( Giuliani, 2019 ; Ullah et al. , 2021 ).

With respect to exploiting institutionally weak countries, there are two main issues. First, MNCs will pursue a direct policy of shifting their operations to the countries with the weakest regulations to take advantage of cheaper production opportunities and reduced liability ( Bae et al. , 2021 ). In turn, these countries will be prompted into competing with one another vis-à-vis deregulation and tax enforcement ( Kocher, 2021 ). Second, for MNCs that pursue a policy of outsourcing, suppliers will tend to outsource labor-intensive and low-value requirements to other suppliers as well ( Davies and Ollus, 2019 ). In turn, these secondary suppliers will then outsource these requirements to yet other subcontractors, and so on ( Crane et al. , 2019 ). Ultimately, production will take place in factories that are hidden from view, where exploitive labor practices and human rights violations are core elements of the business model ( Khan, 2018 ).

In this context, international treaties and conventions that place obligations on states, rather than MNCs, are ineffective in controlling conduct ( Cutler and Lark, 2020 ; Ruggie, 2017 ). In this regard, Bair (2015) draws attention to the Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations and the Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises regarding Human Rights, both developed by United Nations entities. She explains that the Code of Conduct was originally intended to be a “binding instrument capable of restricting the activities of multinationals [… and] subordinating corporate power to state power.” The Code of Conduct specified the obligations of MNCs toward host countries, and, after revision, the obligations of host countries toward MNCs. However, 18 years after drafting had begun in 1974, disagreements between member states, as well as changing economic circumstances, led to the abandonment of the Code of Conduct. As Mantilla (2009) discusses, the Draft Norms were a second attempt at creating a legally binding code for MNCs. Although, in contrast to the Code of Conduct, the Draft Norms were presented as a summary of existing international laws with mechanisms for monitoring, verification and enforcement. The idea was that MNCs could be held directly accountable for their conduct without the need for a new international treaty. However, as Bair (2015) states, the negative reaction from governments and the business community led the United Nations to reconsider the legal requirement of the instrument. Ultimately, after seven years since drafting began in 1999, the Draft Norms were declared to be entirely voluntary.

Consequently, when it comes to governing CSR at an international level, soft law and private regulation are important options ( Cutler and Lark, 2020 ; Eller, 2017 ; Omoteso and Yusuf, 2017 ; Tamvada, 2020 ). In contrast to hard law, which concerns legal and enforceable obligations and rights, soft law refers to statements of expected behavior without enforceability, typically in the form of norms, principles and standards ( Choudhury, 2018 ). In contrast, private regulation refers to rules that companies submit themselves to voluntarily ( Eller, 2017 ). Internationally, these regulations are monitored by external agencies and are seldom legally enforceable ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ).

2.3 Categorizing international corporate social responsibility instruments

Fransen et al. (2019) reveal how ICSRIs can be distinguished according to the type of organizations that produced them. While soft law instruments are typically produced by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) ( Choudhury, 2018 ), private regulation instruments can be produced by either IGOs or international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ). There are also ICSRIs that have been coproduced by both IGOs and INGOs ( Henry et al. , 2019 ).

ICSRIs can be distinguished according to the way that commercial organizations are able to participate in or use them ( Berger‐Walliser and Scott, 2018 ). Certain ICSRIs may require certification ( Raynolds et al. , 2014 ; Schönherr et al. , 2022 ). This is a verification of compliance, often resulting in the enterprise being allowed to use a particular label on their products ( Lebaron et al. , 2017 ). Bourguignon et al. (2020) discuss the International Framework Agreement (IFA) as an international CSR instrument. These are agreements between international unions and individual companies. Some CSR instruments may be membership based ( Raynolds et al. , 2014 ; Choudhury, 2018 ). These are instruments produced by organizations to set out the behavioral expectations of their own members ( Perez et al. , 2019 ). In addition, instruments may be open, such that compliance is completely discretionary with no obligations for the producing organization or the enterprise ( Mähönen, 2020 ).

Dankova et al. (2015) distinguish ICSRIs based on the type of activity involved in their application. They differentiate between management and reporting instruments. Management instruments focus on the day-to-day activities, operations and practices of a company ( Abbas, 2020 ). Reporting instruments instruct companies on how they should report the impacts of their activities to the public ( Camilleri, 2015 ; Pope and Lim, 2020 ; Siew, 2015 ). Henry et al. (2019) mention marketing and communication instruments as another distinguishing activity. These instruct companies on the ethical ways to promote their products or brand. Siew (2015) draws attention to assessment instruments as another distinguishing activity. These instruments are designed to allow companies to measure and evaluate their own impacts.

Dankova et al. (2015) and Liubachyna et al. (2017) use stakeholder involvement as a distinguishing characteristic in their frameworks. Similarly, the external orientation of an instrument could be a distinguishing characteristic as well. Certain ICSRIs are designed with the intention of encouraging corporations to address wider social, environmental or economic problems, beyond only managing their own impacts or internal operations ( Brown et al. , 2018 ).

Both Dankova et al. (2015) and Raynolds et al. (2014) categorize instruments according to the specific CSR issues they address. Both make distinctions for human rights, labor practices, social performance and environmental performance; Slavery and gender equality are common topics of discussion when it comes to human rights issues ( Ullah et al. , 2021 ). Labor practices refer to the core rights set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, covering themes such as wages and worker safety ( Khan, 2018 ). Social performance refers to development and value creation criteria aimed at local communities, including themes such as support for community organizations and infrastructure development ( Hermans and Reyes, 2020 ). Environmental performance refers to impacts on natural spaces and resources ( D'Souza et al. , 2020 ), and covers themes such as conservation and pollution ( Raynolds et al. , 2014 ).

Dankova et al. (2015) include economic performance and product responsibility criteria in their framework. Economic performance is the level of contribution to local or national economic objectives, covering themes such as job creation and knowledge transfer ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ). Product responsibility is a combination of various product related attributes including themes such as safety and quality ( Zeisel, 2020 ). Given that issues such as transparency and corruption are commonplace in CSR programs ( Kaymak and Bektas, 2017 ), governance can also be understood as a distinguishing issue.

ICSRIs can be distinguished according to the industry sectors to which they are applicable ( Fransen et al. , 2019 ; Knudsen, 2017 ; Perez et al. , 2019 ). These can be broad, such as the extractive and garment industries ( Knudsen, 2017 ), or specific, such as the tea and flower industries ( Fransen et al. , 2019 ). Moreover, some schemes may be applicable to multiple, and even all, industry sectors ( Perez et al. , 2019 ).

3. Methodology

3.1 research design.

To achieve the objectives of our study, we first had to define both the type of material we wanted to collect and the type of instruments we wanted to extract from that material. Regarding the type of material, we set the collection boundary to articles from high-impact journals written in English. No restrictions were placed on publication dates. Concerning the type of instruments, we defined CSR instruments as tools of governance ( Steurer et al. , 2012 ) that promote cultural and managerial transformation, reinforce accountability, delineate rules of behavior and establish systems for controlling activities ( Zinenko et al. , 2015 ), with respect to society’s expectations ( Carroll, 2016 ).

These instruments had to have been produced by international organizations. In keeping with Pease’s (2016) work, international organizations were defined as organizations with members or activities in more than one country, including those comprising multiple governments, as well as non- and for-profit private organizations that were active in multiple countries. Furthermore, the instruments had to target commercial enterprises, and should not have been created for the sole purpose of managing the producing organizations’ own CSR obligations.

For the first objective, we used a systematic literature review design, based on the recommendations of Snyder (2019) . The literature review used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) framework outlined by Page et al. (2021) . This produced a collection of journal articles that contained references to ICSRIs. A brief statistical analysis of the articles was performed using several of the publication-metrics proposed by Donthu et al. (2021) . For the second objective, Neuendorf’s (2017) content analysis method was used to extract the ICSRIs from the articles and compile them into a list. To achieve the third objective, we adapted a framework from Dankova et al. (2015) to classify the listed ICSRIs.

3.2 Collecting the journal articles and performing the publication-metric analysis

Microsoft Academic, a scholarly search engine with an extensive index and semantic search, was used to identify articles in the data set ( Choong et al. , 2014 ; Visser et al. , 2021 ). Key word combinations were entered into the search engine, composed of the key word “CSR,” one regulatory and governance key word, and one international-level key word, as exhibited in Table 1 . The key word “CSR” was chosen over “corporate social responsibility” after a preliminary investigation on the search engine. Both terms produced identical results. Altogether, there were 680 key word combinations, an example of which is “CSR Accountability Africa.” These produced record lists in the search engine, which we then filtered to display journal articles only. Details of individual records were extracted from these lists based on the Microsoft Academic tags, displayed underneath each record, and placed into a Microsoft Word document. Only the records with tags that matched all three key words were included. A total of 1,597 records were collected in this way, over five consecutive days in April 2021.

After removing 568 duplicates, we screened the titles and abstracts of the remaining 1,029 records to remove the articles that did not meet our quality and language requirements. We removed 266 articles published in journals that were not listed on the SCImago Journal and Country Rank, and 4 articles that were not written in English. Next, we screened the full-text articles of the remaining 759 records, which we accessed via the websites and databases of the relevant publishers (e.g. ScienceDirect, Emerald Insight, Wiley Online Library). This involved reading each article to identify references to ICSRIs that matched our criteria. Accordingly, 228 articles were removed for not containing references to CSR governance or regulatory instruments, 132 articles were removed because the referenced instruments were not produced by international organizations and 3 articles were removed because the referenced instruments were for internal use only. This process left us with 396 articles, each including at least one reference to a relevant ICSRI. Figure 1 illustrates the overall collection process. Before continuing, an Excel sheet was used to analyze the articles according to their publication metrics, such as date of publication, journal of publication and research design.

3.3 Compiling and classifying the list of international corporate social responsibility instruments

The 396 articles collected from the systematic literature review represented the units of sampling for the content analysis. The units of data collection, and subsequent units of analysis, were the in-text mentions of ICSRIs, relevant to the predetermined criteria, contained within those articles. To find these mentions, we read through the main body of each article. When a mention of a CSR instrument was detected, it was extracted and listed into a Microsoft Word document. As the objective was to find the actual instruments, we focused on the context of each mention. However, each mention needed to contain a referenceable instrument and organization. Where appropriate, the instrument was recorded at its highest designation. For example, mentions of “ISO 14001” or “14031” were recorded under the title “ISO 14000 Series.” Overall, a list of 229 ICSRIs was compiled. Using Microsoft Excel, the listed ICSRIs were classified according to seven categories, namely, producing organization, participation, activity focus, stakeholder involvement, external orientation, CSR focus and industry application.

4.1 Publication metrics

As shown in Figure 2 , the 396 collected articles were published between the years 1982 and 2021. The year 2015 had the most publications, with 34 articles, followed by the year 2017, with 30 articles, and both the years 2009 and 2019, each with 29 articles.

The collected articles were published by 215 different journals. As displayed in Figure 3 , there were only nine journals that were represented by five or more articles each. These accounted for 115 (29%) articles. The three most represented journals were the Journal of Business Ethics , Corporate Governance (Emerald Publishing) and Sustainability (MDPI).

Table 2 shows the research design and methodologies of the articles. The most popular research design was qualitative ( n = 265, 67%), followed by quantitative ( n = 102, 26%), mixed methods ( n = 23, 5%) and book review ( n = 6, 2%). The three most popular methodologies were conceptual ( n = 213, 54%), followed by secondary data analysis ( n = 60, 15%) and content analysis ( n = 31, 8%).

4.2 Content Analysis

In total, the titles of 229 ICSRIs were collected. Figure 4 displays each of the 20 ICSRIs that were mentioned in 22 or more articles. The remaining 209 instruments were mentioned in 21 or less articles. The three most frequently mentioned instruments were the United Nationals Global Compact ( n = 215, 54%), the Global Reporting Initiative ( n = 155, 39%) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises ( n = 104, 26%).

4.3 Categorizing international corporate social responsibility instruments

4.3.1 producing organization..

Most of the instruments from our sample were produced by INGOs ( n = 173, 76%), followed by IGOs ( n = 47, 21%) and, finally, both IGOs and INGOs ( n = 9, 4%).

4.3.2 Participation.

The majority of the instruments from our sample were open ( n = 80, 35%). The following most common instruments were IFAs ( n = 56, 24%), membership ( n = 47, 21%) and assurance ( n = 46, 20%). All the IFAs were produced by INGOs. Of the remaining assurance and membership instruments, the following should be noted. For INGOs, assurance instruments were the most common, followed by membership instruments. For IGOs and both IGOs and INGOs, membership instruments were the most common, followed by assurance.

4.3.3 Activity focus.

The most common instruments from our sample were management instruments ( n = 196, 86%), followed by reporting and disclosure instruments ( n = 15, 7%), assessment ( n = 12, 5%), communication and marketing ( n = 3, 1%) and other ( n = 3, 1%).

4.3.4 Stakeholder involvement.

Only 63 (28%) out of the 229 instruments from our sample specified the need for stakeholder involvement. The number of instruments with stakeholder involvement produced by IGOs and INGOs are 13 out of 47 (28%) and 47 out of 173 (27%), respectively.

4.3.5 External orientation.

Only a small number of the instruments from our sample featured an external orientation ( n = 41, 18%), and these were proportional between IGOs and INGOs.

The results of the producing organization, participation, activity focus, stakeholder involvement and external orientation classifications are displayed in Table 3 .

4.3.6 Corporate social responsibility focus.

Labor practices and worker protection was the most common CSR focus subcategory in our sample ( n = 142, 62%). This was followed by governance and legal compliance ( n = 125, 55%), human rights ( n = 112, 49%), environmental performance and protection ( n = 108, 47%), social performance and protection ( n = 85, 37%), economic performance and contribution ( n = 58, 25%) and product quality and safety ( n = 57, 25%). These results are illustrated in Figures 5 and 6 .

Concerning the instruments produced by INGOs, the most common CSR focus subcategory in our sample was labor practices and worker protection, addressed by 119 (69%) of the 173 instruments. This was followed by human rights ( n = 88, 51%), governance and legal compliance ( n = 82, 47%), environmental performance and protection ( n = 79, 46%), social performance and protection ( n = 59, 34%), product quality and safety ( n = 40, 23%) and economic performance and contribution ( n = 39, 23%).

Regarding the instruments produced by IGOs, the most common CSR focus subcategory in our sample was governance and legal compliance, addressed by 37 (79%) of the 47 instruments. This was followed by environmental performance and protection ( n = 25, 53%), social performance and protection ( n = 24, 51%), human rights ( n = 18, 38%), labor practices and worker protection ( n = 18, 38%), economic performance and contribution ( n = 18, 38%) and product quality and safety ( n = 16, 34%).

For instruments produced by both IGOs and INGOs, the most common CSR subcategories in our sample were governance and legal compliance and human rights, both being addressed by six (67%) of the nine instruments. These were followed by labor practices and worker protection ( n = 5, 56%), environmental performance and protection ( n = 4, 44%), social performance and protection ( n = 2, 22%) and both economic performance and contribution ( n = 1, 11%) and product quality and safety ( n = 1, 11%).

4.3.7 Industry application.

We identified 21 industry application categories in our sample, displayed in Table 4 . The category with the most instruments was “any,” meaning the instruments could be applied in any industry. This category accounted for 69 (30%) of the 229 instruments. Similarly, there were 14 (6%) instruments that could be applied in multiple industries. Of the instruments applicable to specific industries, the four most common were agriculture ( n = 19, 8%), manufacturing and engineering ( n = 17, 7%), minerals and fossil fuels ( n = 16, 7%) and banking finance and investments ( n = 16, 7%). The three least common were chemistry ( n = 2, <1%), sports ( n = 2, <1%) and pharmaceutical ( n = 3, 1%).

A noteworthy finding is the different proportions in industry application between IGOs and INGOs. For INGOs, instruments applicable to any industry accounted for 40 (23%) out of 173 instruments. There were also instruments applicable to every industry category. For IGOs, instruments applicable to any industry accounted for 26 (or 55%) out of 47 instruments. In contrast, however, instruments applicable to specific industries covered only eight industry categories.

5. Discussion

The findings revealed that most of the ICSRIs reflected in our sample were produced by INGOs. Given that this category is broad, consisting of instruments produced by industry associations, NGOs and private companies, this is not an unexpected finding ( Perez et al. , 2019 ; Fransen et al. (2019) . These organizations and associations are more numerous than IGOs and, therefore, it stands to reason that they produce more instruments. Moreover, the audiences and objectives of INGOs can be appreciated as more specific ( Perez et al. , 2019 ), requiring instruments that suit their specific needs and objectives. In contrast, given their mandate to represent a wide range of constituents with mutual concerns, IGOs need to produce only a few instruments that apply broadly ( Berliner and Prakash, 2015 ). With respect to the lower number of instruments coproduced by IGOs and INGOs, these may only be needed on the rare occasions when the interests of both types of organization converge and the competencies of each are required.

Regarding instrument participation, most ICSRIs were open. This could be anticipated from Berger‐Walliser and Scott (2018) , who explained that the low liability is highly appealing to businesses. IFAs were the second most common type of instrument in our sample. This could be an indicator of its growing popularity as a mechanism to control MNC behavior ( Bourguignon et al. , 2020 ). The research also revealed that open and assurance instruments were the most popular types produced by IGOs and INGOs, respectively. This reinforces the work of previous researchers ( Cutler and Lark, 2020 ; Eller, 2017 ; Omoteso and Yusuf, 2017 ; Tamvada, 2020 ) who commented on the lack of enforcement that IGO instruments have. The high number of open and assurance instruments produced by INGOs supports LeBaron et al.’s (2017) argument that INGOs rely on the legitimacy that third-party inspection and auditing brings.

The majority of instruments from our sample were management instruments, followed by reporting instruments. These findings reinforce the work of Dankova et al. (2015) and Siew (2015) who identified a comparatively higher proportion of these instruments in their studies. In general, the activity focus subcategory numbers highlight the activities that are typically at the discretion of the corporation, but which outside parties would like to influence, that is to say, the areas that cannot be covered by law or civil society monitoring. Hence, the relatively low number of other types of instruments in our sample (i.e. assessment, communication and marketing) is understandable.

The study demonstrated that most of the ICSRIs from our sample do not include stakeholder involvement. While this finding supports Liubachyna et al. (2017) , it contrasts with Dankova et al. (2015) . This difference can be attributed to their smaller, purposive selection of instruments. It is surprising that stakeholder involvement, or the lack thereof, is proportional between instruments produced by IGOs and INGOs. This could imply that there are issues with the practicality of stakeholder involvement, or that international organizations are more interested in establishing universal practices rather than getting MNCs to develop tailor-made solutions for their stakeholders, as previous researchers have argued ( Berliner and Prakash, 2015 ; Brown et al. , 2018 ).

The results also revealed that few ICSRIs feature an external orientation. As this implies a relatively weak contribution to local area development, this finding contrasts with Kocher’s (2021) presumption that voluntary regulation is designed to replace the role of governments or IGOs.

In our study, we identified 21 industry application categories. While the instruments applicable to any or multiple industries are not the most common in Raynolds et al. ’s (2014) study, it is a finding that is reflected by the instruments included in Knudsen’s (2017) study. In this study, a large difference in the coverage of the instruments between IGOs and INGOs was identified. There were INGO instruments for every category, whereas IGO instruments were only in eight industry categories. Moreover, there was a large proportion of instruments applicable to any industry between IGOs and INGOs. These findings support the argument that INGOs need more instruments to suit a wider audience ( Perez et al. , 2019 ), while IGOs need fewer instruments that can be applied more broadly ( Berliner and Prakash, 2015 ).

Concerning CSR focus, this study demonstrated that a high number of instruments include governance criteria. This finding supports Kaymak and Bektas (2017) . The high representation of governance in the instruments could indicate that IGOs and INGOs identify this subcategory as especially critical for social impact or harm, as Ucar and Staer (2020) had suggested. The relationships between the remaining six CSR focus subcategories in this study closely resembled the findings of Dankova et al. (2015) , except for environmental and social criteria, which were equal in their study.

Labor was the most common area of CSR focus. This is unsurprising as there has been public concern for labor rights at least since the labor struggles around the world of the 1930s ( Marens, 2008 ), predating the notion of CSR by about 30 years ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ; Carroll, 1999 ). By comparison, concern for the impact of business on human rights and the environment is relatively recent, only gaining popularity in the 1970s ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ; Mantilla, 2009 ). Along these lines, it is understandable that long-standing issues of public interest feature more strongly in ICSRIs. It is unexpected, however, that the inclusion of human rights and environmental issues have not caught up to labor issues, given that human rights ( Stohl and Stohl, 2010 ) and environmental ( Doh and Guay, 2006 ) organizations were among the first to promote the concept of CSR.

The varying inclusion of social performance and protection criteria between the instruments is also worth investigating. It is one of the highest focus areas in the instruments produced by IGOs, and one of the lowest focus areas in the instruments produced by INGOs and coproduced by IGOs and INGOs. While public concern for the impact of business on society is not as old as concern for labor rights, it can be placed within the same time period as public concern for the impact of business on human rights and the environment ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ). The mismatch may be due to differing priorities. INGOs might be more concerned with eliminating harmful MNC behaviors. A firm’s lack of support for nearby local communities may be seen as negative, but not necessarily harmful. Instead, the abuse of workers and indigenous peoples may be seen as causing direct harm and therefore be of greater concern. IGOs might be more concerned with fostering beneficial behaviors to generate useful economic and social outcomes at the macro level.

Similar reasoning could be used to explain the low inclusion of economic criteria in the identified instruments. For IGOs, getting businesses to contribute to national and regional issues may be a crucial milestone in achieving their own goals ( Hohnen, 2008 ). INGOs could be more concerned with reducing everyday human rights and labor violations and holding companies accountable for their harmful behaviors ( Denedo et al. , 2017 ). It may be that regulating product safety and quality is considered a legal rather than a CSR issue, explaining the all-around low attention to product issues in the instruments.

6. Implications

6.1 theoretical.

creating value for all stakeholders;

basing decisions on ethical motivations; and

developing mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships.

Regarding the first tenet, the stark difference in CSR focus, especially for instruments developed by INGOs, suggests that certain stakeholders are prioritized. For the second tenet, the high attention to governance in most instruments indicates a strong attention to accountability. Yet, the limited inclusion of external orientation criteria implies that these instruments are not intended to encourage ethical decision-making. Concerning the last tenet, the lack of stakeholder inclusion criteria suggests that improving stakeholder interactions is not a core purpose of these ICSRIs.

To measure SLO, Gehman et al. (2017) promote the 14 questions developed by Black (2017) . Our results suggest that the ICSRIs from our sample reflect only seven of these measures. Accordingly, there is only weak support to suggest that the instruments are aligned with the SLO concept. From a more general perspective, however, there appears to be some agreement with the SLO concept. Gehman et al. (2017) explain that the SLO is a unidirectional concept. In other words, an evaluation of a firm from external individuals or groups. In our results, this is implied by the activity focus of the instruments. If they were more bidirectional, the presence of another activity focus category for stakeholder relationship management would be expected (similar to the AccountAbility AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard).

Prioritization of the issues and stakeholders that are most likely to damage reputation ( Hurst et al. , 2020 ) or profitability ( Voyer and van-Leeuwen, 2019 ) are also features that have been associated with the SLO concept. Our findings suggest that this is case for the instruments produced by INGOs, given the uneven attention to CSR focus criteria. Labor and human rights issues would quickly be picked up by civil society actors ( Ullah et al. , 2021 ), who could catalyze public disapproval ( Henry et al. , 2019 ). The same goes for reports of bribery, corruption or tax avoidance ( Ucar and Staer, 2020 ), which would also attract interventions from local governments. Dissatisfied employees could strike, disrupting operations and revenue. Moreover, given that the environment is a “hot topic” ( de Freitas Netto et al. , 2020 ), this issue may be prioritized. On the other hand, this does not appear to be the case for the instruments produced by IGOs, which have more balanced CSR criteria.

Institutional theory offers valuable insights into the isomorphic mechanisms at work in ICSRIs. Coercive mechanisms, which apply external pressure on organizations, are best represented by the assurance and IFA instruments. Mimetic mechanisms, which involve the dissemination of best practices, are best represented by the open instruments. Normative mechanisms, which concern an internally generated desire to professionalize, are best represented by the membership instruments. From our sample, most of the instruments produced by INGOs use coercive mechanisms ( n = 99, 57%). This is followed by instruments using mimetic ( n = 45, 26%) and normative ( n = 29, 17%) mechanisms. In contrast, it appears that most of the instruments produced by IGOs use mimetic mechanisms ( n = 31, 66%), followed by normative ( n = 15, 32%) and coercive ( n = 1, <1%) mechanisms. The higher number of coercive instruments suggests that INGOs believe that CSR can only be guaranteed through external verification, perhaps because of the threat of “blue-washing” ( Berliner and Prakash, 2015 ). This is reinforced by the greater range of industry-specific instruments produced by INGOs. The higher number of mimetic instruments suggests that IGOs believe that to improve international CSR, there is a need to establish universal basic practices ( Berliner and Prakash, 2015 ; Brown et al. , 2018 ). This statement is supported by the higher number of cross-industry instruments produced by IGOs.

6.2 Practical

In support of voluntary regulation, this study has demonstrated that most of the analyzed instruments focus on worker protection, human rights, governance and environmental protection. As such, they are useful contributors in establishing and solidifying worldwide norms that international law has, so far, struggled to achieved independently ( Cutler and Lark, 2020 ). However, the instruments in our sample rarely oblige corporations to address wider developmental issues beyond their own impacts or establish a process to engage with stakeholders. This suggests that voluntary regulation has failed to normalize the idea that corporations are inclusive institutions that should contribute to local and regional development ( Agudelo et al. , 2019 ). Furthermore, instruments from our sample seldom focus on issues related to product quality and safety, economic contribution and social protection. As such, it appears as though many of these instruments have not been developed to fulfill a corporation’s obligations in line with stakeholder theory ( Freeman, 2010 ) or the CSR pyramid ( Carroll, 2016 ). Instead, many instruments concentrate on improving reputation and appealing only to those stakeholders who may affect profitability, in line with the SLO concept ( Hurst et al. , 2020 ; Voyer and van-Leeuwen, 2019 ). Based on the above, four recommendations are made below.

First, both IGOs and INGOs balance the CSR focus subcategories that are addressed in their instruments to reflect the categorizations used in this study. Although CSR instruments need to be applicable to the distinct social, political and business interests of the localities or industries they are intended for, CSR is about meeting social expectations ( Carroll, 2016 ). Accordingly, while ICSRIs are expected to be diverse, that diversity should be in the form of different approaches to each CSR focus subcategory rather than the specific targeting of one subcategory over another. The reconciliation of CSR focus subcategories could be achieved by updating existing instruments, or by developing new ones to compensate for neglected focus areas.

Second, in this same vein, instruments need to be revised or developed to include stakeholder involvement and external orientation criteria.

Third, the creation of a meta-standards organization, like ISEAL, but for ICSRIs is required. The study revealed that certain criteria were considerably underrepresented in the instruments, such as stakeholder involvement and external orientation, as well as certain CSR focus subcategories. This implies two critical threats to voluntary regulation. First, that certain instruments may have been designed to allow adopting firms to give the impression of social responsibility. Second, that the competition between voluntary regulation developers is high ( Bartley, 2022 ). As a result, there is a risk that instrument developers will make their standards less rigorous to encourage more companies into adopting them. A meta-standards organization would go far in promoting the most effective instruments. This organization could include the participation of IGOs, such as the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It could give its seal of approval to the instruments that best address universally important and industry-specific criteria.

Fourth, we recommend that a website be established, managed and maintained through an international collaboration involving universities and civil society organizations under the supervision of an IGO. This website should list and classify all the ICSRIs according to the framework developed in our study. This would be useful for a number of reasons: it would support efforts to solidify global CSR norms; it would facilitate the navigation of ICSRIs; and it would increase public and commercial awareness of the properties and comprehensiveness of different ICSRIs.

7. Conclusion

The aim of this study was to understand the properties of the instruments that regulate and govern CSR at the international level. This was achieved by using a systematic literature review method to collect journal articles containing references to ICSRIs; the use of a content analysis method to extract and place those instruments into a list; and the adaption of a classification framework to categorize the listed instruments according to their properties. This approach has been successful, and from 396 highly relevant articles, an extensive list of 229 ICSRIs was compiled, a classification framework was applied and the research question was answered.

In conclusion, most ICSRIs in our sample were produced by INGOs. Instruments produced by IGOs and coproduced by IGOs and INGOs are, respectively, the second and third most common. Most instruments were open, placing no obligations on the producer or targeted user. IFAs were the second most common, while assurance and membership instruments were the least common types. The majority of the instruments concentrated on management activities. Reporting, assessment and communication and marketing instruments were the least common activity types. Most instruments did not specify stakeholder involvement and only concentrated on the internal functions and impacts of the targeted user.

Overall, labor practices and worker protection were the most common focus of the instruments from our sample. This was followed by human rights, governance and legal compliance and environmental performance and protection. The least common issues covered by the instruments were product quality and safety, economic performance and contribution and social performance and protection. There were considerable differences in focus between IGO and INGO instruments. The majority of the instruments were targeted at specific industries. The remaining instruments were targeted at multiple or any industries. There are some large differences in industry application between the instruments produced by IGOs and INGOs.

This study has made several contributions to the knowledge of international CSR. New broad-based understandings about voluntary regulation have been generated, and valuable information has been brought into the CSR literature. In addition, our research draws attention to previously overlooked dimensions of CSR instruments by using external orientation as a classification category, communication and marketing as an activity focus subcategory and governance and legal compliance as a CSR focus subcategory. Furthermore, the quantitative approach used in the study has set a useful precedent, laying out a road map that future researchers can easily follow.

The timeliness of the study is emphasized by the increasing CSR-related regulation that the recent years have witnessed. After more than 20 years since the international community resigned itself to the idea of voluntary regulation, questions of its efficacy, and the need for legal mechanisms, are again being revisited ( Tamvada, 2020 ). The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 in the UK, the Loi de Vigilance of 2017 in France, the Child Labour Due Diligence Law of 2019 in The Netherlands and the Lieferkettengesetz of 2021 in Germany are all evidence of increasing public concern for MNC behavior. Along these lines, the findings of the study empower policymakers, industry practitioners and civil society actors to make informed decisions regarding the future of international CSR.

8. Future research

This study examined the properties of ICSRIs using broad categories. We compared the nature of the instruments according to their producing organizations. Future research should investigate the differences between instruments according to their participation types and industry applications. For example, examining how CSR focus differs between membership and certification instruments, or how external orientation differs between instruments designed for the textile and banking industries. Moreover, the categories used in this study could be further fragmented to reveal further instrument differences. For example, the INGO category could be subdivided into industry associations, civil society organizations and private companies. Furthermore, although the classification framework was developed following an extensive literature review, there are still categorization types that could enhance its comprehensiveness. Future researchers can enhance the classification framework by identifying and including additional categorizations.

case study related to csr activities

The journal collection process illustrated according to the PRISMA flow diagram

case study related to csr activities

Publication dates of the 396 journal articles collected

case study related to csr activities

The journals represented by five or more of the 396 journal articles collected

case study related to csr activities

The 20 international CSR instruments mentioned by 22 or more journal articles

case study related to csr activities

Frequency of the CSR focus subcategories among the 229 international CSR instruments, overall

case study related to csr activities

Frequency of the CSR focus subcategories among the 229 international CSR instruments, by producing organization

The regulatory and governance and international-level key words used in the key word combinations for identifying relevant journal articles

Classification of the 229 international CSR instruments according to producing organization, participation, activity focus, stakeholder involvement and external orientation

Classification of the 229 international CSR instruments according to industry application and producing organization

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This research and its open access publication charge was funded by The Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation/The Research Council (TRC) of the Sultanate of Oman, grant number BFP/RGP/HSS/18/154.

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  • Original article
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  • Published: 05 July 2016

Corporate social responsibility research: the importance of context

  • Carol A. Tilt 1  

International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility volume  1 , Article number:  2 ( 2016 ) Cite this article

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There has, in recent times, been an increasing interest in understanding corporate social (and environmental) responsibility (CSR) and, in particular, CSR reporting in developing countries. However, many of these studies fail to investigate fully the contextual factors that influence CSR and reporting in those countries, preferring to rely on theories and hypotheses developed from studies undertaken in the West, particularly the US, UK and Australasia.

It may be argued that this is appropriate as many emerging economies are experiencing growth and moving towards having a more market-based orientation. Notwithstanding this, a large number of these countries have an entirely different socio-political environment, with different political regimes, legal systems and cultural influences. These factors have a significant effect on the applicability of theories such as stakeholder theory, legitimacy theory and accountability theory, which are commonly used to explain the phenomenon of reporting.

In State Capitalist countries, such as China, an important influence on companies is the political ideology that underpins the nation’s government. The nature and impact of ideology and hegemony in China has been under-studied and, therefore, investigating how the ideology, and competing forces that may mitigate its influence, manifest themselves in Chinese reporting are essential. In the Middle East, countries such as Saudi Arabia have no free press, are ruled by a royal family, have a market dominated by the oil industry, and potential religious influences. Such socio-cultural differences mean societies develop different understandings of concepts such as sustainability and social responsibility. Finally, countries such as Sri Lanka have some similarities to other developing countries, but their economy is set against a background of a recent civil war – operating in a post-conflict economy is a factor rarely considered in social and environmental disclosure, yet has important influence on policy in these areas.

This paper discusses three contextual issues that warrant more and improved consideration in CSR research, with particular emphasis on CSR reporting research.

More and more corporations worldwide are involved in corporate social responsibility activities, and as a result are providing more social and environmental information to the public. Following from this, CSR disclosure, or reporting, has become one of the major fields of investigation by accounting scholars (Deegan 2009 ; Mathews 1997 ; Tilt 2001 ). Research that considers both CSR activity and CSR reporting has traditionally focused on companies in more developed economies, predominantly the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand (Burritt and Schaltegger 2010 ; Frost et al. 2005 ; Gray 2006 ; Gurvitsh and Sidorova 2012 ; Othman and Ameer 2009 ; Patten 2002 ; Sahay 2004 ), but recently there has been increasing interest in understanding the phenomenon in developing countries particularly as they experience growth and move towards a more capitalist orientation (Sumiani et al. 2007 ). Of the research that does exist, a number of papers suggest that ‘country’ is a determinant for CSR involvement and for the level of disclosure, but do not go much further.

Many of the studies of developing countries however, choose a framework for their investigation based on those shown to be meaningful for explaining disclosure in developed, capitalist economies. That is, they fail to investigate fully the contextual factors that influence firms and their reporting in those countries that have a different social, political, legal and/or cultural context.

It may be argued that this is appropriate as many emerging economies are experiencing growth and moving towards having a more market-based orientation. However, this is rarely acknowledged or questioned in these papers. Yet, it is reasonable to suggest that these factors have a significant effect on the applicability of theories such as stakeholder theory, legitimacy theory and accountability theory, which are commonly used to explain the phenomenon of reporting.

The majority of the world’s population lives in developing countries and each country experiences its own unique social, political and environmental issues (United Nations 2013 ). These countries are in the process of industrialisation and are often characterised by unstable governments, higher levels of unemployment, limited technological capacity, unequal distribution of income, unreliable water supplies and underutilised factors of production. As a result of rapid industrial development, policies are pursued that aim to attract greater foreign investment, and the investors are often keen to start benefitting from fiscal incentives and cheap labour. While these strategies make economic sense, they have adverse social and environmental effects, including the use of child labour, low or unpaid wages, unequal career opportunities, occupational health and safety concerns, and increased pollution.

In a review of the literature on determinants of CSR reporting (Morhardt 2010 ), reports that research on the impact of different variables in different regions is inconclusive due to the lack of enough studies. Factors that may influence CSR disclosure practices fall broadly into internal and external (Fifka 2013 ; Morhardt 2010 ), but are commonly classified further as (Adams 2002 : p224):

Corporate characteristics, such as size, industry group, financial/economic performance and share trading volume, price and risk;

General contextual factors, such as country of origin, time, specific events, media pressure, stakeholders and social, political, cultural and economic context; and

Internal contextual factors, including different aspects of corporate governance.

While CSR reporting has been studied by a large number of scholars, only a few fall into the second of the categories above, and consider context in detail. This is particularly relevant when considering developing countries. A few papers have specifically reviewed studies on developing countries. For example, (Belal and Momin 2009 ) categorise the work on developing countries into three groups: studies of the volume or extent of reporting; studies of the perceptions of CSR reporting by managers; and studies of the perception of CSR reporting by stakeholders. In all the studies reviewed there is little discussion of the context, other than a description of the country, and no real thought about the theoretical assumptions being made.

This paper presents a discussion of the different contextual issues or factors that show some evidence or potential to influence CSR and reporting in developing countries. It focusses on three specific issues and provides a research agenda for future consideration of the influence of context in CSR reporting research. The paper is structured as follows. The next section introduces some broad contextual factors that warrant consideration in the literature on CSR reporting. Next, three specific contextual issues are examined: the role of political ideology and hegemony; the influence of cultural understandings; and the impact of historical economic context. Finally, by way of conclusion, some recommended areas for further research are suggested.

Contextual considerations

Adams ( 2002 ) talks about the social, political, cultural and economic context, so some consideration of what this might mean is needed as each of these concepts themselves cover a variety of aspects, and indeed overlap. While papers may talk about the ‘social context’ in which the companies being examined operate, this is not well defined and little consideration is given to what this means. Some things that could be more explicitly considered include, inter alia : the role of the press; the status of women; the legal/justice system; the level of corruption; the level of government control, cultural understandings; and so on. This paper chooses to highlight three of these areas, and these are discussed briefly below in broad terms, followed by a discussion of some specific aspects of each identified as providing fertile grounds for future research.

Political system

Assumptions are often made about capitalist systems, whether explicit or implicit, as the vast majority of work on CSR reporting has been done in the Western context. However, there is little research looking at CSR reporting in socialist or communist countries. Some work has been undertaken on China (Dong et al. 2014 ; Gao 2011 ; Situ and Tilt 2012 ), but this work often applies the same conceptual frameworks as Western studies. What about the influence of ideology, and hegemony?

Sociocultural environment

Human beings have “distinctive cultural (learned) characteristics, histories and responses to their environment” and the term ‘sociocultural’ is commonly used in anthropological research to describe these and the “interactions and processes” that this involves (Garbarino 1983 : p1). Some general studies of culture and CSR using Hofstede exist (Silvia and Belen 2013 ), but an in-depth analysis of different understandings and conceptions of terms such as CSR as a result of sociocultural influences is lacking. The work that does examine specific factors often suggests that the Western concept of CSR does not fit these contexts (Wang and Juslin 2009 ).

The majority of work that considers sociocultural factors has looked mainly at religious aspects of CSR, most commonly by reviewing reporting by Islamic organisation, such as Islamic banks (Maali et al. 2006 ; Siwar and Hossain 2009 ; Sudarma et al. 2010 ). The teachings of many religions focus on social responsibility, the relationship with the natural environment, treatment of others, fairness, justice, etc., so there is a natural expectation that religion-based organisations may be more likely to engage in CSR and CSR reporting. A more nuanced consideration of how this manifests itself in different societies would improve understanding of the drivers and motivations of these activities. Similarly, other sociocultural factors, such as national identity, values, social organisation and language, could be incorporated.

Stage of development

The emerging literature on CSR reporting outside the Western world examines countries that are ‘developing’ (Belal and Momin 2009 ; Momin and Parker 2013 ), but little depth is included about where they are in their development journey and how the potential conflict between economic and social goals impacts CSR or CSR reporting. Rostow’s ( 1962 ) Stages of Economic Growth model suggests there are five stages (traditional society, preconditions for take-off, take-off, drive to maturity, and age of high or mass consumption), yet most literature on CSR classifies countries only into developed or developing. The ‘developing’ classification potentially includes countries that are in Rostow’s first, second or third stage which may have an impact on their response to CSR issues. In addition to economic variables however, the United Nations also produces a Human Development Index (HDI) which considers life expectancy, education and income to measure how social, as well as economic, development (UNDP 2015 ). Both these concepts are important for consideration of CSR.

Importantly, consideration of just one or two aspects of these three broader contextual issues may result in misinterpretation of the results. Often these things interact, for example, social issues often cross over with cultural and religious impacts, or even with political influence where the regime is more hegemonic. It is thus important to consider, or at least acknowledge, the holistic nature of the context of the phenomenon being examined.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss all of the issues raised here although this would be an important part of a larger research program. Therefore, three particular contextual issues, and three specific contexts, are the focus of this paper: the role of political ideology and hegemony (China); the influence of cultural understandings (Middle East); and the impact of historical economic context (Sri Lanka).

Politics, ideology and state control

Ideology is a set of common beliefs that are shared by a group of people, and is “the fundamental social beliefs that organize and control the social representations of groups and their members” (Van Dijk 2009 : p78). Countries such as China provide a fertile research setting to examine the influence of ideology, and hegemonic approaches of influencing CSR, which have been missing from most CSR research in the region.

The Chinese political model has some unique characteristics. Among these is the dominance of ‘the party state’, which exercises control in different forms over most aspects of the economy that is unmatched when compared to other state capitalist economies. Political leaders use a variety of tools (Bremmer 2010 ) and it is the combination of three particular tools that sets apart the Chinese system: the exercise of control as a dominant shareholder, the ability to appoint key positions in major firms, and the means to influence decision-making via ideology. First, the party exerts shareholder power over state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Chinese SOEs play an instrumental role in society (Du and Wang 2013 ) and make up around 80 % of the stock market (Economist T 2012 ). As protecting the environment is a major part of the guiding ideology and the nation’s policy, SOEs are likely to be keen to provide CER. Second, the party exercises power over the appointment of the senior leadership in SOEs (Landry 2008 ). This has resulted in control as they are “cadres first and company men second. They care more about pleasing their party bosses than about the global market” (Economist T 2012 : p6). Third, party control is exercised through ideology. The party has cells in most larger firms, whether private or state-owned, which influence business decisions made at board meetings. Given that China considers the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology as crucial this distinguishes it most significantly from other varieties of state capitalism that have a more liberal-democratic flavour.

There is some evidence that the first form of party control has been declining in recent times with the number of SOEs under the SASAC’s control halving over the last decade (Mattlin 2009 ). Similarly, since 1999, the share of SOEs in the economy has declined from 37 % to less than 5 %. This results in greater use of regulation and ideological hegemony to achieve its aims, yet most CSR research still uses state-ownership as a proxy for all types of state control.

Even after economic reform, ideology in China was still pervasive (Lieber 2013 ). Lieber ( 2013 ) argues that ideology is widely used to signal loyalty and the government is good at using ideology to “control and direct key vocabularies… (and) vague ideological language can create a climate of uncertainty thus increasing the range of a control regime” (Lieber 2013 : p346). However, the prevailing ideological themes in China are dynamic. In particular, most recently, new ideological themes have developed to respond to the changes in society. When economic reform began, “building up a socialist market economy with specific Chinese characteristics” was the guiding ideology (Zhang 2012 : p25). As such, economic growth was the country’s priority, but in 2005, “building up a harmonious society became the prevailing ideology” (and CSR is a key element of this resolution).

Ideology is used by the Chinese government to exert control over businesses. Traditionally, the government has “been considered a source of moral authority, official legitimacy and political stability…and …political language has been vested with an intrinsic instrumental value: its control represents the most suitable and effective way first to codify, and then widely convey, the orthodox state ideology” (Marinellin 2012 : p26). The language “developed and used by party officials … consists of ‘correct’ formulation, aims to teach the ‘enlarged masses’ how to speak and, how to think” (Marinellin 2012 : p26). The idea of the importance of a ‘Harmonious Society’ is the “re-contextualized discourse in response to the emergent issues in the changing social stratification order” (Zhang 2012 : p33). As a result, Chinese companies have been noticeably adopting the language of social concern and environmental protection.

It may therefore be suggested that CSR reporting in China is directly a response to the government’s ideological hegemony. However, the story is not as straightforward as it may first appear, for two reasons. First, despite a great deal of commitment to social and environmental regulation in China, implementation of these regulations has been limited. Second, as China enters a phase of continued economic development, Western influences may begin to have a moderating effect on the strength of the ideology.

The Chinese economy has grown rapidly in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank 2016 ). The economic reforms that took place over the past decades were motivated substantially by the Chinese central government, and recent scholars have noted the positive role that ideology played in driving those reforms, notwithstanding that economists historically view ideology as “distorting… knowledge, judgment and decision making” (Lieber 2013 : p344).

With economic reform however, has come substantial environmental degradation which in turn has led to poor health outcomes for much of society generally. This led to a high level of commitment to environmental regulation in particular from as early as the 1990, followed by the release of even more rigorous regulations on environmental protection in the 2000s. However, despite the high commitment made by the Chinese central government, implementation of these policies is quite poor (Bina 2010 ). In terms of environmental regulation, for example, the implementation problems stem from a number of areas, including: the position of environmental protection agencies in the political framework; conflict between central and local governments; and supervision issues. The system of supervision of local environmental departments is a key problem (Bina 2010 ). When an environmental department is set up in the central government, corresponding environmental departments are set up in local governments. Ideally, these local departments should be agencies of the central department, deliver the central environmental department’s strategies, and supervise local environmental protection implementation. In reality, the local environmental departments are subservient to the local rather than central governments. All their financial support and staff appointments come from local governments. Therefore, rather than supervising local environmental protection implementation, the local environmental departments become “rubber stamps” for local governments (Zheng 2010 ). Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be efficient enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies at the local level (Bina 2010 ; Zheng 2010 ).

Finally, as China heads towards a market economy, government intervention becomes a policy choice, and markets function as a tool of national interest (Zhao 2011 ). However, as Chinese firms become more involved with foreign trading partners and markets, their reporting activity is also influenced by foreign and global organisations, leading to potential tension between demonstrating commitment to state ideological goals and meeting the requirements of global stakeholders.

Given the complexity of the context, research into CSR reporting in China needs to take into account the specific aspects of Chinese politics and culture in order to provide a nuanced understanding, and ultimately an improvement, of CSR reporting activities. However, a review done of the literature on CSR in by Chinese showed that it is very descriptive with little depth and much of the CSR literature is conceptual, descriptive, or argumentative in nature (Guan and Noronha 2013 ). The authors noted proper research methodologies are not systematically applied in some studies, and supporting theories are lacking. In the non-Chinese studies on China, there is also a predominance of papers on determinants and volume of reporting (Situ and Tilt 2012 ), with very few considering broader contextual factors, other than a few that look at specific cultural attributes (e.g., Rowe & Guthrie 2009 ).

Sociocultural understandings

Notwithstanding a move towards a market orientation of many developing countries, such as in China as outlined above, conceptions of CSR by management of companies in these countries may be quite different to those in the West (Wang and Juslin 2009 ). These differing conceptions may be a result of differing values and attitudes, language, religion or identity. Even specific elements of CSR are conceived of differently, for example in China, the main understanding of sustainability is in terms of environmental protection (Situ et al. 2013 , 2015 ). These socioculturally derived understandings are inevitably reflected in their reporting.

In another example, in the Middle East, the predominant perception of CSR is that it simply means philanthropic donations. In this region, the issue of social responsibility is relatively new, and as such the number of studies of CSR and CSR reporting in the Gulf region is growing (Al-Khatar and Naser 2003 ; AlNaimi et al. 2012 ; Emtairah et al. 2009 ; Mandurah et al. 2012 ; Marios and Tor 2007 ; Minnee et al. 2013 ; Nalband and Al-Amri 2013 ; Naser et al. 2006 ; Naser and Hassan 2013 ; Qasim et al. 2011 ; Sangeetha and Pria 2012 ). Many of these studies do not consider the cultural context to a very great extent as the research is emerging and focusses on perceptions. For example, Mandurah et al. ( 2012 ) and Emtairah et al. ( 2009 ) explored managerial perceptions of the concept of CSR in Saudi Arabia and found that managers are aware of the concept, but there is little connection between the managerial level perceptions and firms’ workforce. The authors describe CSR as being in its infancy phase, which limits the understanding of the concept to the view that CSR simply means being philanthropic. This indicates a different, and perhaps less developed, understanding of the concept in the region compared with the West, but the reasons for this, and the consequences for CSR reporting, are under-explored. Some authors suggest the narrow use of the term is because of the religious obligations towards society, (Visser 2008 ). There is only minimal evidence of any CSR practices other than philanthropy-based or any strategic approaches to CSR for long-term benefits (Visser 2008 ), but the trend is increasing and the forms that philanthropy takes is expanding.

It has also been argued that politics plays a significant role in increasing the awareness of CSR in the Arab world. Avina ( 2013 ) suggests that the perception of CSR in the Middle East changed after the Arab spring event, for both local and international firms. The term CSR more than a decade ago had little meaning to the public (Visser 2008 ) but since the Arab spring, the sense of social responsibility among civil society and the corporate sector has increased Avina 2013 ). Firms realised that they play a role in social responsibility, not just governments, and recognised that CSR should go beyond just donations to charitable causes (Avina 2013 ). Ronnegard ( 2013 ), however, predicts that CSR in the Middle East will not mimic the Western concept because of the strong influence of culture and religion in the region. Moreover, the influence of stakeholders in the Middle East is considered to be limited due to there being a lack of free press, few lobby groups and the different cultural attributes of employees and consumers. Some studies in Gulf countries have however, suggested that stakeholders, such as government and charitable organisations, may have an impact on firms’ behaviour (Emtairah et al. 2009 ; Naser et al. 2006 ). Others suggest that CSR may have developed as a concept due to the increase of foreign direct investment into Arab countries, the trend of shifting family and government owned firms into the public domain, and the globalisation of the region’s large national firms.

From the limited studies that have been undertaken, there is evidence of CSR reporting by Gulf country companies, with human resources and community involvement being the dominant themes in may reports Abu-Baker and Naser 2000 ). Thus, understanding of motivations for CSR reporting is not yet well developed and few existing studies consider the different level of stakeholder pressure in the region. This suggests that more research is needed on the formation of notions of CSR within specific contexts. This region is of particular interest because, according to the Human Development Report (HDI 2013 ), countries in the region are classified as high, or very high, in human development. That is, they are not only trying to develop and improve their economy, but are also trying to improve the quality of life of their citizens (Ramady 2010 ). The overall outlook of these countries indicates that they are performing well, however, Fadaak ( 2010 ) notes that identifying poverty lines is a challenge because of a lack of a clear definition of poverty in the region. There are no official reports considering poverty or other social problems and no GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries were found in the list of the World Bank Database in relation to the poverty rate.

Similarly, in other developing countries the importance of local economic, cultural, and religious factors that shape the business environment, and understandings of charity and philanthropy, need to be taken into account. Empirical work in this area is lacking (Lund-Thomsen et al. 2016 ). In Sri Lanka, for example, “the most common arguments used to ‘sell’ the business case for CSR and CP [Corporate Philanthropy], for example an improved brand image, increased market or customer share, employee retention, mitigated regulatory risks, and reduced tax burden, are considered mostly irrelevant” (Global Insights 2013 : p1). Business leaders engage in CSR for a range of business, humanitarian, social, religious, and political reasons. Key amongst them is a belief that ‘giving back’ to society discharges religious obligations to the poor, and an awareness that being seen to contribute to national development goals is important (Global Insights 2013 ). Hence, the conception of CSR in this region is culturally determined, but also shaped by the economic environment.

  • Economic development

As well as government control, culture and political factors, the stage of economic development a country is in is also an important contextual factor that may impact CSR reporting. In China, as discussed above, the drive for economic reform led directly to environmental impacts which needed to be addressed. A number of other developing countries have been examined for their reporting on CSR issues, particularly from the Asian region (Andrew et al. 1989 ; Elijido-Ten et al. 2010 ), India (Mishra and Suar 2010 ; Raman 2006 ; Sahay 2004 ), and Bangladesh (Belal and Owen 2007 ; Belal and Roberts 2010 ; Khan 2010 ; Muttakin et al. 2015 ).

While these countries are classified as developing (IMF 2015 ), Bangladesh and India score only medium for human development. Another country in the region, Sri Lanka, has a high rating on the HDI, and has been exhibiting extensive growth since the end of a 30-year war (WPR 2015 ). Thus, exhibiting both economic and social growth aspects makes it an interesting case for studying CSR.

Sri Lanka has a population of over 20 million and foreign companies have increased their investments with one billion US dollars in direct foreign investments in 2013 alone ( BOI ). Classified as a middle income developing country, the challenge for Sri Lanka is to achieve high economic growth without causing irreversible damage to the environment and while continuing to eliminating social issues such as poverty, malnutrition and poor workplace ethics (Goger 2013 ). In addition, Sri Lanka also has a long history of corporate philanthropy, largely led by individuals whose values and actions stem from religious and cultural views (Beddewela and Herzig 2013 ) but has recently seen an increase in private firms offering development-related initiatives. Public infrastructure projects have been the main element of post-war economic planning, but there still remains rural poverty in the country. Thus, the primary motivation for CSR and philanthropy in Sri Lanka is poverty reduction, particularly for children and youth, social welfare organisations like orphanages and elderly homes, hospitals and health services, and veterans’ charities (Global Insights 2013 ). Thus, the economic, cultural, and political context means that these poverty rates have fallen (data indicates that the rate went from approximately 20 % in 2000 to under 9 % in 2013) and that inflation has slowed (Wijesinha 2014 ), so opportunities for private businesses to contribute to infrastructure abound. However, these private, development-orientated, CSR initiatives have often failed to deliver their aims and there is considered to be a danger that they may in fact perpetuate the causes of poverty and ethnic and religious conflict given their ties to particular ethnic groups (Global Insights 2013 ).

Notwithstanding this environment, the topic of CSR reporting in Sri Lanka has received relatively little research attention compared to other parts of the world (see Belal and Momin 2009 , for a review). In terms of motivations for CSR, there is some evidence that firms in which senior management have a positive outlook towards social and environmental practices tend to disclose more on these aspects, as compared to other firms (Fernando and Pandey 2012 ). However, reporting on CSR initiatives is not mandatory thus it is likely that any voluntary reporting by Sri Lankan firms will vary significantly. One study of reporting was conducted by Senaratne and Liyanagedara ( 2012 ) who examined the level of compliance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines in the disclosures of publicly listed companies, selected from seven business sectors. The authors conclude that the level of compliance with the GRI is low and that disclosures vary significantly amongst the companies, potentially reflecting varying commitment to CSR. Similarly, a longitudinal study across five years (2005–2010) was carried out by Wijesinghe ( 2012 ) to identify trends in CSR reporting in Sri Lanka and the study identified an increasingly positive trend, predicting similar levels of disclosures provided by companies in developed countries. The few studies that have been conducted examining the predominance of reporting in Sri Lanka, mostly examining multinational companies, conclude that CSR reporting is gaining momentum in Sri Lanka but is still emerging as the concept of CSR itself emerges (Beddewela and Herzig 2012 ; Hunter and Van Wassenhove 2011 ).

Conclusion and a future research agenda

As more and more research on CSR in developing countries emerges in the academic literature, it is important to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the context in which the research takes place. Examination of CSR and CSR reporting practices without contextualisation could perpetuate flawed understandings that are based on evidence from research in the developed world. Different political, social, cultural and economic environments impact on the both the development of, and reporting of, CSR activities and consequently impact on the value of these activities to benefit society and the natural environment.

A suggested agenda for future research, that considers context in more depth, includes:

Consideration of ideological and hegemonic regimes and their attitude towards CSR. This research would consider potential positive and negative impacts of the political and governance system. In China, for example, the potential for Communist Party ideology to increase environmental protection and improve social conditions is vast, and is starting to be seen to have a strong impact on firm behaviour. Examination of this over time will provide an important contribution to understanding the role of government beyond the more common analysis of environmental protection regulation.

Greater examination of sociocultural variables in different countries, beyond analysis of religious influence, and beyond the use of Hofstede. Understandings of concepts such as CSR in countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Asian sub-continent, are known to differ from those in the West, so understanding their potential to lead to better (worse) CSR outcomes is important. The variety of variables that could be included is vast, but some clearly important issues include: language, secularism, freedom of the press, access to information, homogeneity of values and attitudes, and the existence of a national figurehead or identity.

Longitudinal examination of the process of economic development. Countries where the economy is developing rapidly, such as China and the Middle East; and countries where the historical economic context differs dramatically, such as in Sri Lanka where the need for development is borne out of conflict, provide rich backgrounds to consider how CSR is developing alongside economic developments.

A comprehensive framework for examining these, and other, potential factors that influence CSR and CSR reporting in developing countries does not exist, but Table  1 attempts to provide a preliminary outline of some factors that could comprise such a framework, and be used to guide future research. As mentioned earlier, it is important to note, however, that these variables are not discreet and are likely to interact with each other. This is noted in the table as a reminder that the classifications are somewhat artificial and that acknowledgement of a more holistic consideration is important.

These are clearly only a selection of opportunities for CSR research on developing nations and emerging economies. Calls for more work on these factors have continued since Adams’ ( 2002 ) original call, but there is still vast scope to improve our understanding of CSR practice throughout the world (Fifka 2013 ), where much of the social and environmental damage is taking place.

Importantly, research of this kind must be transdisciplinary as perspectives from areas such as political science, philosophy and economics are essential. Only with in-depth, contextualised understandings can improvements to the nature of CSR activity be implemented.

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It is important to acknowledge that this paper provides an overview of a larger research program currently being undertaken by a team of doctoral students at Flinders University and the University of South Australia. Credit must be given to Ms Hui Situ (Flinders University) who is researching environmental reporting in China, Mr Abdullah Silawi (Flinders University) who is researching social responsibility reporting in the Gulf region, and Ms Dinithi Dissanayake (University of SA), who is researching environmental disclosure in Sri Lanka.

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Original research article, human resource practices for corporate social responsibility: evidence from korean firms.

case study related to csr activities

  • 1 School of Business, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
  • 2 College of Business, Gachon University, Seongnam, South Korea

Human resource management (HRM) in managing environmental, social, governance (ESG), or corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives has been recently raised. Yet, little attention has been paid to integrating CSR and HRM. Our primary goal was to identify how and whether certain HR practices are critical for developing employee capability to operate in firms with active CSR initiatives. We first examine the impact of external CSR activities on firm-level work outcomes. Moreover, we attempt to identify a choice of particular HR practices that could be aligned with external CSR activities. We then empirically examine how each HR practice interacts with external CSR activities that influence employee retention and labor productivity. Using three longitudinal datasets conducted by the government-sponsored research institution over 154 publicly traded Korean firms for five waves of survey years, the results show that external CSR has a limited impact on employee retention and labor productivity. However, when external CSR activities are combined with a specific set of HR practices, including person-organization fit-based selection, performance-based pay, extensive investment of training and development, and employee suggestion program, the impact of external CSR on employee work outcomes is more substantial. The results indicate that external CSR and a particular set of HR practices as internal CSR can be complementary and generate a positive interaction on creating sustainable human capabilities.


There is a rapidly growing interest in how organizations benefit or harm social welfare. Corporate strategies or actions in this area are often referred to as environmental, social, governance (ESG), or corporate social responsibility (CSR). ESG represents how firms and investors integrate environmental, social, and governance concerns into their business models ( Gillan et al., 2021 ). CSR has traditionally referred to corporate activities as more socially responsible and a better corporate citizen ( Aguinis, 2011 ). One difference between the two terms is that ESG explicitly includes governance, and CSR indirectly includes governance issues related to environmental and social considerations. Therefore, ESG tends to be a broader term than CSR ( Gillan et al., 2021 ). Vast literature attempts to find how CSR as corporate activity could impact a firm’s financial performance ( Wang et al., 2016 ). However, prior research on CSR effects on firm performance has been characterized by conflicting or mixed findings at best ( Margolis and Walsh, 2003 ; Ducassy, 2013 ; Wang et al., 2016 ). For instance, an empirical review of 127 studies by Margolis and Walsh (2003) suggested a positive relationship between CSR and firm performance through gaining market recognition. Similarly, Ducassy (2013) showed that 68% of the papers supported the positive link between CSR and financial performance, and 6% confirmed the negativity toward CSR and firm performance. Such mixed or conflicting empirical results may indicate that organizations differ in managing CSR strategies’ consequences.

Some studies attempt to clarify the relationship by emphasizing responses from specific stakeholders and CSR domains to solve such mixed results. For instance, studies have indicated the importance of employees’ responses from CSR activities because employees constitute important internal stakeholders who are central actors of CSR implementation, which can determine the effects of CSR on firm performance ( Aguinis and Glavas, 2012 ; Farooq et al., 2017 ; Shen and Zhang, 2019 ). Moreover, emerging studies suggested employees may differentiate CSR initiatives based on various stakeholder groups instead of considering it as a unidimensional concept. Therefore, we divide CSR domains into external and internal CSR, followed by Farooq et al. (2017) and Deng et al. (2020) . Specifically, external CSR is referred to as stewardship, including volunteerism and corporate philanthropy directed external stakeholders such as customers, business partners, and local communities. Internal CSR generally focuses on policies and practices of a firm that are related to the wellbeing of employees, their lives, and productivity ( Farooq et al., 2017 ). It is predicted that external and internal CSR have a different impact on employees since the former has no direct gains on employees ( Royle, 2005 ; Deng et al., 2020 ) while the latter is directed toward employees. Therefore, it is worth exploring how employees would respond to external CSR.

Following this research stream, this paper aims to investigate the impact of external CSR on work outcomes such as labor productivity and employee retention. Building on social identity theory, external CSR can promote positive employee attitudes and behaviors ( Tyler and Blader, 2003 ; Valentine and Fleischman, 2008 ; Farooq et al., 2017 ; Deng et al., 2020 ). For example, studies have presented evidence supporting external CSR efforts improve perceived organizational prestige and higher self-esteem, positively related to employees’ job satisfaction, loyalty, and work engagement ( Zhu et al., 2014 ; Deng et al., 2020 ). Therefore, it is expected that higher labor productivity could reflect all these positive attitudes and behaviors caused by external CSR activities.

Moreover, we argue that these external CSR and a specific set of HR practices as internal CSR can be complementary and positively affect sustainable human capabilities such as labor productivity and employee retention. HRM can be internal CSR itself that represents organizational actions to satisfy employees’ expectations, actively improve and fulfill organizational justice such as improving employee reward satisfaction, and ensuring work safety and the growth of employees ( Greenwood, 2002 ; Crane et al., 2019 ). Building on the internal fit approach from strategic human resource management (SHRM) literature, we contend that employees respond differently to external CSR at different HR practices. Lastly, we attempt to identify the particular HRM practices to interact with external CSR within a firm and examine whether these practices can promote the effectiveness of external CSR initiatives.

This study contributes to the literature in two significant aspects: First, we extend our understanding of CSR-HRM link literature. Specifically, HRM has been treated separately from CSR as a cause or consequence of CSR ( Aust et al., 2020 ). However, this study emphasizes the potential role of HR as internal CSR and the interaction between HR and external CSR. Building on the social exchange theory, employees are internal stakeholders of a firm that can be influenced by the actions such as HR practices. It is the norm of reciprocity between the employees and employer through the implementation of HR practices that focus on the wellbeing of employees ( Low et al., 2017 ). Moreover, our study contributes sustainable HRM literature that still lacks much empirical attention to identifying the particular HRM practices ( Macke and Genari, 2019 ; Aust et al., 2020 ). The study aims to empirically identify how and whether specific HR practices are critical for developing employee capability to operate in firms with active CSR initiatives.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

External csr and work outcomes.

As previous organizational psychology research suggested, we first revisit the relationship between external CSR and employee attitudes. Scholars have argued that external CSR can affect employees’ attitudes and behaviors by enhancing their organizational pride ( Farooq et al., 2017 ; Deng et al., 2020 ). Based on social identity theory, it is expected that the employees tend to identify with an organization through comparison and association with other organizations to achieve self-worth improvement ( Tyler and Blader, 2003 ). Specifically, employees can perceive more external CSR as a representation of the healthy image and reputation of the firm, which can be used to predict improvement of employees’ self-worth ( Tyler and Blader, 2003 ; Farooq et al., 2017 ). Then, employees can earn a high level of organizational pride by comparing with external CSR of other firms ( Valentine and Fleischman, 2008 ; Farooq et al., 2017 ). Such organizational pride can meet social identity needs, retaining employee engagement ( Hogg and Turner, 1987 ). Empirical evidence suggests that external CSR can affect employees’ attitudes and behaviors through acquiring employees’ self-esteem promotion and organizational identification. For example, Jones and Kramar (2010) found that CSR can affect employees’ pride and identification with their organization, influencing organizational commitment and employee satisfaction. In addition, Rupp et al. (2018) found that work engagement is positively associated with CSR since employees are likely to be prouder of the firm. Studies have also presented that employees tend to increase a high level of self-worth evaluation and their attachment to the organization when a firm has a healthy reputation outside the organization ( Peterson, 2004 ). These studies explain employee work engagement, enhancing positive attitudes and behaviors.

Furthermore, firms with high external CSR are expected to gain higher financial benefits. Deng et al. (2020) argue that external CSR initiatives are considered effective ways to manage relationships with other critical external stakeholders such as customers, government, and investors. Therefore, a firm’s investment in external CSR may reap the cost from receiving resources and support from the government, investors, and customers ( Barnett and Salomon, 2006 ; Deng and Xu, 2017 ). Thus, employee work engagement outcomes, including employee retention and labor productivity, could be expected to present organizational pride, self-esteem promotion, and employee expectation from gaining financial benefits from external CSR.

To summarize, we extend prior research to revisit the relationship between external CSR and employee outcomes reflected by a reduced turnover and improved labor productivity to examine whether an organization can enjoy benefits from employees’ perceived external CSR. Put differently, the supposed positive association between external CSR and employee work outcomes, including labor productivity and employee retention, may indicate a form of strategic investment that positively affects firms’ economic outcomes and the creation of a “sustainable competitive advantage” ( Su et al., 2016 ). This argument leads to the following hypotheses.

H1a : The external CSR activity is negatively related to employee turnover.
H1b : The external CSR activity is positively related to employee productivity.

External CSR, HR Practices, and Work Outcomes

We further explore the possibility that the effect of external CSR on employee work outcomes may be contingent on HR practices as internal CSR in organizations. Emerging studies explore the possibility of interaction between external and internal CSR. For instance, Story and Castanheira (2019) showed that the interaction between internal CSR and external CSR increased employees’ organizational citizenship behavior. In addition, Deng et al. (2020) confirmed an S-shaped curve relationship between external CSR and labor productivity. Firms with higher internal CSR have a positive moderating effect in the S-shaped curve relationship. A study of the luxury business industry by Sipilä et al. (2021) found that external CSR activities negatively affect a company’s financial performance and customer loyalty. Internal CSR alleviated the negative relationship between external CSR and customer loyalty. Empirical studies in the hotel industry in Korea found that employee perception of internal CSR was more strongly related to pro-social behavior than external CSR perception. This positive relationship was more pronounced when external CSR perception was lower ( Hur et al., 2020 ).

We argue that certain HR practices are highly related to internal CSR that can be better matched with external CSR activities, leading to higher employee work outcomes. Internal CSR and certain HR practices have in common that can influence the attitudes and behaviors of employees through the principle of reciprocity from social exchange theory ( Luo and Zheng, 2013 ). The principle is defined as the human need and tendency to give something back when something is received. This need is more substantial when the gift is given without expecting a return ( Slack et al., 2015 ). The reciprocity is particularly applicable to specific HR practices because they lead to some firms acting to support employee wellbeing and sustainability. Therefore, employees may feel obliged to pay these investments back by putting more effort or work engagement to reciprocate to firms ( Slack et al., 2015 ; Aju and Beddewela, 2020 ). For instance, based on reciprocity, employees work harder or better to reward the organization by enhancing commitment and trust when employees receive fair wages ( Luo and Zheng, 2013 ).

In this vein, certain HR practices as internal CSR can serve as a proxy for mutual support and trust, fulfilling employees’ work engagement ( Tyler and Blader, 2003 ; Rupp, 2011 ; George et al., 2020 ). Thus, we contend that particular HR practices primarily take on ESG’s social aspect (S) and can be managed as internal CSR, creating positive synergies with external CSR. Part of the reason may be that mutual trust or reciprocity, combined with organization pride through external CSR, can create positive interaction on work engagement ( Rupp, 2011 ; De Kock, 2021 ). Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggested that when HRM and CSR managers agree on a mutual role in responsibility, the organization will act faster ( Guerci and Pedrini, 2014 ). In addition, it seems probable that employees can perceive the firm’s effort to external CSR as mere construction of corporate images. This perception is highly likely when organizations lack internal CSR. Specifically, when employees feel that such internal CSR is insufficient, employees are likely to perceive external CSR activities negatively. It is consistent with recent studies arguing that firms exclusively focus on external CSR, and the outcome may be harmful due to employee cynicism ( Low et al., 2017 ).

Furthermore, we argue that the internal fit perspective can explain the interaction between external CSR and HR practices. The perspective suggests that organizations need to seek efficient human resource practices, being dependent on the other strategic actions such as external CSR actions to obtain a “fit” or “internal consistency” between practices ( Delery and Roumpi, 2017 ; Wright and Ulrich, 2017 ). The nature of the relationship that presents internal fit is complementary or synergistic between practices by mutually supplying each other’s lack that generates better performance than when each practice works in isolation ( Wright and Ulrich, 2017 ). In addition, SHRM literature also views the particular “bundles” of HR practices that could make to organizational performance ( Delery and Doty, 1996 ; Macky and Boxall, 2007 ). Specifically, these bundles consist of HR practices consistent with each other, such as selective recruiting, employee development, performance managing pay system, and employee involvement ( Wright et al., 2003 ; Boxall and Macky, 2009 ; Wright and Ulrich, 2017 ). Following Wright et al. (2003) , we divided multiple HR practices into four major functional areas in HRM: hiring, training, compensation, and employee participation. Then, we attempt to identify a particular HR practice from each functional HR area well aligned with CSR initiatives, aiming to create capabilities required for positive work outcomes.

Person-Organization Fit-Based Selection

The dominant approach in hiring employees in practice has been the person-job fit (P-J fit), referred to as selecting employees based on their knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience that a job is required ( Kristof-Brown et al., 2005 ). However, recent studies have argued that the person-organization fit (P-O fit) approach has been gained much attention and has become an essential criterion for employee selection. P-O fit-based selection suggests that employees tend to be attracted and selected to an organization that shares similar values and goals as the organization ( Coldwell et al., 2008 ). In addition, prior studies have confirmed that P-O fit-based selection positively impacts employee socialization, job attitude, employee behavior, and actual retention ( Kristof, 1996 ). Later, several scholars, including Hoffman and Woehr (2006) , suggested that the relative importance of these two types of fits depends on the context of the job task and the organizational purpose. We posit that P-O fit-based selection is better matched with external CSR activities, leading to higher employee work outcomes for the following reasons.

First, P-O fit-based selection in firms with a high-level external CSR is more likely to consider CSR values of individual employees during the selection process. Therefore, it may increase the chance of hiring employees who have a more favorable attitude toward CSR, promoting the effectiveness of the firm’s external CSR activities. For example, Hur and Kim (2017) suggested that the employees identify with a company that implements CSR initiatives, particularly when their values are aligned with the firm’s CSR initiatives. Second, selection based on P-O fit can improve communication and encourage helping behaviors by having similarities in values and attitudes ( Kristof, 1996 ). According to the similarity-attraction theory, similar attributes between employees can create closer relationships ( Moreland, 1985 ). Therefore, a higher level of similarity between organizational members based on P-O fit selection and attitude reduces role ambiguity and conflict levels, promoting cooperation and communication ( Meglino et al., 1989 ). Such cooperation and lateral communication are mainly related to reciprocity and social exchange when organizations make more significant efforts when devising and implementing external CSR activities.

Similarly, Evans and Davis (2005) also revealed that selection based on P-O fit positively impacts group shared mental models. This approach can influence positive organizational support, consideration, and social responsibility among employees required in most CSR firms. Additionally, Kim et al. (2010) have suggested the importance of value-fit in CSR firms, implying that congruence between employee personality and characteristics of CSR activities may create the employee perception of organizations as a responsible organization perceived as organization pride.

To summarize, P-O fit-based selection combined with employee pride through external CSR efforts are consistent and signify employee work engagement. As proposed above, P-O fit selection can benefit from screening out potential employees who are less favorable or less matched toward the firm’s external CSR efforts, thereby increasing the success of external CSR initiatives. In addition, value-fit achieved by P-O fit selection facilitates communication and a strong sense of organizational support, reinforcing employee perception of organizational pride ( Lee et al., 2012 ). Finally, P-O fit-based employee selection is more beneficial in firms with more external CSR initiatives, indicating positive employee work outcomes. Thus, we formulate the following hypotheses.

H2a: The negative relationship between external CSR activity and the turnover rate is stronger when the selection is based on person-organization fit.
H2b : The positive relationship between external CSR activity and productivity is stronger when the selection is based on person-organization fit.

Performance-Based Compensation

Pay-for-performance is the most direct and visible signal to employees about how firms satisfy employee expectations and increase employees’ perception of organizational justice ( Rynes and Gerhart, 2000 ). We argue that performance-based pay and external CSR can be complementary, creating a positive synergy on employee performance. First, performance-based compensation as an incentive alignment mechanism ties employee compensation directly to the firm’s strategic actions, including external CSR. It can enhance employees’ external CSR cognition and motivate employees to take more external CSR-oriented activities. Anecdotal evidence suggests that employees’ actions toward external CSR activities such as pro bono , voluntary work, green behavior, donations to nonprofit organizations, and community involvement are more recognized during the performance evaluation and reward design ( Gelade and Ivery, 2003 ; Orlitzky et al., 2006 ). In addition, pay-for-performance, particularly collaborative rewards based on collective performance such as profit-sharing, affects employees’ perception of mutual support and communication. It is because collaborative pay-for-performance can increase cooperation and coordination among members ( Harrison et al., 2002 ), prevent social loafing ( Pearsall et al., 2010 ), and share information among members ( Chen and Kanfer, 2006 ). These employee attitudes and behaviors raised by collaborative pay-for-performance can create employees’ perception of CSR-favorable climate in an organization well matched with external CSR actions ( Harrison et al., 2002 ).

Furthermore, recent studies argue that firms that need external CSR programs should promote short-term financial performance by implementing employee performance-improving systems. Therefore, the organizations taking external CSR initiatives are more likely to adopt performance-based pay because it motivates employees to work harder and better through monetary incentives to improve their short-term financial performance. For example, Jones and Kramar (2010) conducted a qualitative study for Australian companies. They found that the degree to which a firm is involved in CSR for external stakeholders was positively associated with adopting a pay-for-performance. In sum, performance-based pay combined with external CSR is complementary, creating positive interaction through increased employees’ awareness and motivation of external CSR activities.

Consequently, the alignment will create a CSR-favorable climate and improve the short-term financial performance. Thus, a performance-based pay system combined with CSR can promote employee work outcomes. It leads to the following hypotheses.

H3a: The negative relationship between external CSR activity and the turnover rate is stronger when firms use a pay-for-performance system.
H3b: The positive relationship between external CSR activity and the productivity rate is stronger when firms use a pay-for-performance system.

Extensive Investment in Training and Development

Employee training and development enhance employee skills and behaviors and the motivation to apply those skills and behaviors at work ( Pfeffer and Veiga, 1999 ). Studies show that the advancement of employees’ skills and behavior is a critical part of internal CSR and employee training and development opportunity is a service provision by organizations ( Low et al., 2017 ). A firm’s continued growth depends on meeting the needs of employees through employee development and establishing a positive social exchange relationship, thereby creating a perception of employee obligation ( Ferreira and de Oliveira, 2014 ). Then, employee obligation can influence employees to benefit the firm through better quality of work or extra-role behaviors. In addition, this investment in employee training and development can also affect the employee perception of being valued or self-worth improvement ( Kuvaas and Dysvik, 2009 ), thereby increasing organization pride. Thus, it is expected that extensive investment in employee training and development, an essential part of internal CSR, may enhance employee obligation, self-worth improvement, and commitment to organizations as responsible organizations. Furthermore, the above process may evoke more external CSR activities because a high level of obligation and mutual trust caused by a significant investment in employee development can increase employees’ tendencies to help others, including customers.

Moreover, recent studies suggest that employee training and external CSR are tightly coupled through CSR training by infusing the firm’s CSR values directly to employees ( Ellis, 2009 ). For example, Ellis (2009) emphasized that CSR training can enhance employees’ awareness of CSR and improve their engagement in external CSR activities. Similarly, Obrad and Gherheș (2018) also classified environmental and social activities within organizations that present social responsibility toward the firm’s stakeholders. A majority of these activities were professional development workshops and training programs.

Overall, significant investment in employee training and development is expected to provide more potential benefits to organizations that pursue a more active external CSR activity. Compared to those who do not, firms with relatively significant investments in CSR activities tend to have higher mutual trust, commitment to organizations, willingness to help other external stakeholders, and CSR awareness. Employee training and development combined with external CSR activities can positively impact employee work outcomes. The argument leads to the following hypotheses:

H4a: The negative relationship between external CSR activity and employee turnover is stronger with the investment in employee training and development.
H4b: The positive relationship between external CSR activity and employee productivity is stronger with the investment in employee training and development.

Employee Voice

In practice, employee voice is represented by openness to considerations such as grievance procedures, suggestion systems, counseling services, employee management councils, survey feedback, non-management task forces, question and answer programs, and ombudsman services ( Spencer, 1986 ). In addition, several studies have insisted that employees positively perceive employee voice because it sends the signal to employees that their inputs are valued and they are valued members of the firm ( Morrison and Milliken, 2000 ; Milliken et al., 2015 ). In contrast, the lack of concern for employees’ ideas or suggestions could translate into an employee perception that the firm is not using procedural justice, thereby generating negative behavioral consequences such as frustration, stress, low self-control, self-efficacy, and quitting ( Cohen-Charash and Spector, 2001 ).

We contend that employee voice influences firm’s external CSR activities and is influenced by external CSR. It appears that employee voice, being a direct feedback communication, may promote employees’ awareness of a firm’s efforts to invest in external CSR and influence how they view their firm’s CSR activities. For instance, Kirat (2015) found that a firm’s relationships with external stakeholders may depend on its efforts to communicate with employees. Additionally, Rupp et al. (2006) noted that employees are less likely to internalize a firm’s CSR into their daily operation fully when employees are less committed to developing and implementing CSR efforts through employee participation or voice. Similarly, Young and Thyil (2014) also show that firms displaying congruence between communication and CSR activities can encourage connectivity, allowing employee participation and engagement. In addition, a recent study maintains that employees as vulnerable stakeholders are less capable of exercising a direct influence on firms ( Civera and Freeman, 2019 ). Therefore, the employee voice function may be a mechanism that can help confirm that the external CSR activities are aligned with the ethical or fair treatment of employees. This employee voice can be legitimately handled by the representative function such as employee councils or labor unions. Indeed, the promotion of open interaction between employees and their representatives and the participation of employee representatives in the firm’s decision-making process has been identified as pivotal parts of firms with active CSR efforts ( Diaz-Carrion et al., 2019 ; Yu et al., 2021 ). Thus, the hypothesis is given as follows:

H5a: The negative relationship between external CSR activity and the turnover rate is stronger when firms use a suggestion system.
H5b: The positive relationship between external CSR activity and employee productivity is stronger firms use a suggestion system.

Research Method

Sample and data.

The study sample was constructed from three publicly available datasets in Korea. We used the five waves of CSR survey of 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018, all of which were conducted by the Korea Economic Justice Institute (KEJI), and the HR data from the Human Capital Corporate Panel (HCCP), government-sponsored national employer survey in Korea. Financial data from the Korea Information Services (KIS) from 2010 to 2019 were also obtained. First, the KEJI index provides CSR scores for approximately 200 publicly traded firms in Korea. KEJI has published 200 CSR firms every 2 years and evaluated CSR scores in terms of seven components of CSR activities: environmental conservation community service, organizational integrity, justice, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and economic development ( Lee et al., 2017 ). Both quantitative and qualitative approach assesses each component. The quantitative methods use a wide range of archival sources, including firm annual reports; reports from the Fair Trade Commission in Korea, the newspaper article about illegal corporate activities; the Korea Employment Agency for the Disabled and the Korea Investors Service; and certifications from the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards and the Ministry of Environment ( Lee et al., 2017 ). The qualitative method is conducted from a survey designed by professional researchers and representatives of civic groups.

Second, HCCP is employee-employer panel surveys to acquire HRM information, including the firm’s availability of the particular HR practices. The survey respondents were largely HRM and business strategy managers, each of whom responded to the items related to their specialization. Over 450 Korean publicly traded firms participated in the survey, and a panel investigation was conducted at biennial intervals. HCCP consists primarily of a corporate-wide survey (Enterprise Survey) and a survey of employees (Workers Survey), divided into a head office survey and a site survey. Since this study was analyzed at the firm level, we used data obtained from the corporate-wide survey. We used these five waves of panel dataset to acquire HR-related information but used all financial data from 2010 to 2018 from the KIS value. The five waves of survey years from the KEJI dataset included 180 firms. After excluding 22 companies with neither financial information nor HR variables, our usable sample was 154 firms that completed the survey.

Measures and Analyses

Dependent variable.

We used two employee work outcome indicators as dependent variables. First, we measured employee productivity (or labor productivity) as the net sales per employee obtained from firms’ financial statements. We can collect firms’ financial reports and calculate their productivity using the KIS-value dataset. Through cost reduction and asset utilization, corporate financial performance improves profitability and asset return. The rate of return on invested capital is essential such as operating income, sales, and total profit. Although various financial indicators exist, sales and operating profit benefit from directly gauging the market’s reaction as a quantitative indicator of the profitability of businesses ( Lee et al., 2017 ). We measure productivity as sales divided by the number of employees in the given year. Secondly, the firm-level turnover rate was measured by the voluntary turnover divided by the number of total employees in the year from the HCCP dataset.

External CSR

External CSR score is obtained from the KEJI index, published in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. As noted above, total CSR activity was measured to elicit the seven items of the KEJI index listed below: organizational integrity, justice, community service, customer satisfaction, environmental conservation, employee satisfaction, and economic development. We exclude employee satisfaction from the CSR Index directed at internal company members. The combined values of the remaining items except the employee satisfaction are considered CSR for external stakeholders.

HR Practices

P-O fit selection (POF) variable was measured based on the choice of survey questions in HCCP. The question requires HR managers to choose from 14 responses on what they consider necessary in the recruitment process. We used the measurement tool implemented by Cable and Judge (1996) . If the firm had a selection program that pursues person-organization fit, one and the other were coded 0. In the present study, the questionnaire presenting recruitment based on person-organization fit has been included in survey questions of HCCP since 2016, not from the beginning year of the sample. Therefore, the number of observations from the sample about recruitment in this study to test hypotheses 2a and 2b is smaller than other samples.

The pay-for-performance was measured by a pay-for-performance plan from the HCCP dataset used. If a firm had a pay-for-performance or merit-pay system, it was coded 1; otherwise 0. Moreover, we measured the extent of investment in employee training and development by the total money spent on training and development programs obtained from the firm’s financial report from the KIS dataset. Finally, a suggestion system in the firm captures the measure of employee voice. Dundon and Gollan (2007) examined the 18 case studies, explored the purpose and meanings of employee voice, and suggested two motives for establishing employee voice systems: to eliminate employee dissatisfaction; to capture suggestions to improve organizational performance. Therefore, the types of content voiced through the formal suggestion system ranged from dissatisfaction to suggestions for improvement and participation in decision making. Information on the suggestion system was obtained from the HCCP dataset. If a firm adopted the suggestion system, it was coded 1; otherwise 0.

Control Variables

Several variables are included to account for some variation in the dependent or independent variables. We included firm size, firm age, industry fixed effect , and firm financial performance . These variables are organizational characteristics that are closely related to or may influence a firm’s HR practices and CSR activities ( Evans and Davis, 2005 ). Firm size was measured as the natural log of total employees. Firm age is the number of years from the founding year to the given period. Financial performance at the past year (t-1), such as ROA(t-1), is controlled due to its influence on the firm’s CSR strategies or HR policies ( Lee et al., 2017 ).

In this study, we conducted panel data analyses. Panel data provide information on individual firm behavior across individual firms ( i ) and over time ( t ). The panel data we used are unbalanced since firms are not observed in all periods. Selecting the appropriate empirical model in panel data analysis is important to ensure the correct estimation. The STATA (18.0 version) was used in this study to validate assumptions based on the variables above. There are two models used to analyze panel data: fixed-effect model and random effect model. We used the Hausman test method to determine which model was more appropriate. As a result of the Hausman test, the fixed-effect model is more appropriate than the random effect model. Its value (prob>chi 2 = 0.0002) is not within the significance level (1, 5%) and is rejected. Fixed effects regression was used to test all of our hypotheses. In addition, we conducted the Shapiro–Wilk normality test, indicating the normal distribution of data. The following is the empirical specification model used in this study.

Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics and correlations for variables used in the study.


Table 1 . Descriptive statistics and correlations.

Tables 2 , 3 present the results of the panel regression analyses. Table 2 shows the effect of the explanatory variables on the firm-level turnover rate. First, external CSR is negatively associated with the turnover rate ( β  = −1.95, p  < 0.05) shown in column 2 of Table 2 , but the negative relationship between external CSR and the firm-level turnover rate is not always statistically significant across different empirical models presented in Table 2 . Specifically, the coefficients of external CSR are not statistically significant or marginally significant when the specific HR practices are added in the regression models shown in column 3, column 7, and column 9 of Table 2 . It indicates a potential interactive relationship between external CSR and HR practices. Thus, we do not have much evidence that external CSR impacts the turnover rate.


Table 2 . Results of regression analysis of the CSR, HR practices, and Turnover rate.


Table 3 . Results of regression analysis of the CSR, HR practices, and productivity.

In contrast, the results find the strong positive effect of external CSR on firm-level labor productivity ( β  = 4.39, p  < 0.001) shown in column 2 of Table 3 . Moreover, this positive relationship remains robust across different empirical specifications in predicting labor productivity, even when included in individual HR practices. Therefore, external CSR does not directly impact the turnover rate, but it confirms the positive association between external CSR and labor productivity. The results indicate limited evidence supporting that external CSR is positively related to employee work outcomes.

Hypotheses 2, 3, 4, and 5 predict the interaction effects of external CSR and individual HR practice on employee work outcomes. First, we examined the interaction between P-O fit-based selection and external CSR. As shown in column 4 of Table 2 , the coefficient of the cross-product interaction term is negative and statistically significant ( β  = −2.15, p  < 0.05), indicating external CSR combined with P-O fit selection can decrease turnover rate, supporting Hypothesis 2a. However, it is worth noting that the effect of P-O fit selection on turnover is positive but combined with external CSR, the interaction term becomes negative, and the marginal effect of POF on turnover rate becomes negative ( β  = −2.15 + 2.11 = −0.04, p  < 0.05). Additionally, external CSR itself does not significantly affect the firm-level turnover rate. Still, its impact is increased when accompanied by the firm’s utilization of P-O fit-based selection. Thus, the results support the interactive relationship between P-O fit-based selection and external CSR in decreasing turnover rate. In contrast, we do not find evidence supporting the interaction between external CSR and POF on productivity shown in column 4 of Table 3 . Thus, limited evidence supports the potential alignment between P-O fit-based selection and external CSR.

Moreover, Hypothesis 3a and 3b posit the interactive effect of pay-for-performance and external CSR activities. As presented in column 6 of Table 2 , the interaction term of external CSR and pay-for-performance on turnover rate was negative and statistically significant ( β  = −0.18, p  < 0.05), indicating external CSR activities combined with pay-for-performance practices can decrease firm-level employee turnover, supporting Hypothesis 3a. However, the interaction term of external CSR and pay-for-performance on productivity is positive but statistically insignificant presented in column 6 of Table 3 , suggesting no strong evidence that supports the complementary relationship between external CSR and pay-for-performance in influencing productivity.

The potential interactive relationship between external CSR and investment in training and development was supported as proposed by Hypothesis 4a and 4b, suggesting a good fit between investment in training and development and external CSR. The regression coefficients of the interaction term of external CSR and investment in training and development on turnover rate were marginally negative ( β  = −1.37, p  < 0.10), and the interaction term of external CSR and investment in training and development on training and development productivity is significantly positive ( β  = 4.05, p  < 0.001) as presented in column 8 of Table 2 , 3 . The results suggest that the higher investment in training and development, the more positive the external CSR will have on the employee outcomes. Finally, as with Hypotheses 4a and 4b, Hypothesis 5a and 5b were strongly supported. The regression coefficient of the interaction between external CSR and suggestion system on turnover rate was negative and significant ( β  = −0.55, p  < 0.05). In addition, the interaction term of external CSR and employee voice has a positive impact on productivity. ( β  = 3.30, p  < 0.001). It indicates that the complementary effect of employee voice and external CSR significantly impacts the turnover decrease and labor productivity.

Our first purpose in this study was to examine the impact of external CSR activities on firm-level work outcomes. Hypothesis 1a and 1b predicted the negative effect of external CSR on firm-level employee turnover and the positive effect on labor productivity. Based on the panel data of 154 publicly traded Korean firms obtained from the separate archival sources on CSR activities, HR practices, and financial data for five waves of survey years, we found limited evidence of the significant impact of external CSR on work outcomes. The results show that external CSR does not significantly impact the turnover rate when the specific HR practice is added. It seems probable that the HR effect on employee retention partially absorbed the CSR effect, and the interaction term of the two variables was positive and significant, suggesting the two complementarily interacted with each other. Still, it supports the positive relationship between external CSR and labor productivity, implying that firm can partially benefit from employees’ perceived external CSR. The result is consistent with recent findings by Deng et al. (2020) , suggesting that building on social identity theory, external CSR had a positive economic gain through the increased labor productivity due to the enhancement of employees’ self-esteem from the firm’s external CSR activities. However, our findings indicate that the effect of external CSR on employee retention diminishes as we include some HR practices, implying the potential interaction between external CSR and HRM.

Our primary goal was to identify how and whether specific HR practices are critical for developing employee capability to operate in firms with active CSR initiatives. Following sustainable HRM literature, recent studies have attempted to identify socially responsible HR practices such as CSR training and reward based on employee volunteering ( Shen and Benson, 2016 ; Clarke and Boersma, 2017 ). However, these practices are somewhat peripheral and do not represent the overall function of HR. In addition, it is challenging to generalize through empirical analysis because these are used only by a few organizations. Thus, we identified the particular HR practices a priori from four primary HR functions: P-O fit-based selection, performance-based compensation, extensive investment in training and development, and suggestion system. We also predict the synergistic effect between the particular HR practice and external CSR.

First, our findings indicate weak evidence supporting the potential interaction between P-O fit-based selection and external CSR predicted by Hypotheses 2a and 2b. It suggests that P-O fit-based selection is more beneficial in firms with high external CSR activities. The result is consistent with recent empirical evidence indicating that the perceived value-fit may explain why some applicants are attracted to organizations that engage in CSR ( Shen and Benson, 2016 ; Shen and Zhang, 2019 ). However, limited evidence shows the potential fit between external CSR and pay-for-performance, supposed by Hypotheses 3a and 3b. The results imply that performance-based pay as a retention tactic can positively interact with external CSR by becoming aware of CSR activities and motivating CSR efforts through organization pride to retain employees. However, our results indicate that the interaction has no impact on labor productivity. It is partly because pay-for-performance in firms with external CSR efforts may not necessarily provide employees with incentives to work harder and better. The results are partially consistent with prior studies, indicating that the extent to which a firm is involved in CSR activities was significantly related to implementing a pay-for-performance system to retain employees ( Jung and Kim, 2016 ).

Moreover, our results predicted by Hypotheses 4a and 4b indicate strong evidence of the positive synergistic effect of external CSR and the amount of money spent on employee training and development. In addition, the findings indicate that extensive investment in training and development in firms with a high level of external CSR may create a high level of mutual trust, commitment to organizations, and employees’ CSR awareness which can positively influence productivity and employee retention. Finally, the positive interaction between external CSR and suggestion system predicted by Hypotheses 5a and 5b was strongly supported. The results suggest that firms presenting consistency between open communication from voice mechanism and CSR activities can encourage connectivity and work engagement, consistent with Young and Thyil (2014) .

Based on these results, this study makes the following contribution. First, the findings extend our understanding of sustainable HRM by identifying how and whether specific HR practices are critical for developing the employee capability required to operate in firms with active external CSR initiatives. Our view is consistent with prior studies positing that external CSR is viewed as an independent function in its own right ( Shen and Benson, 2016 ). Our evidence suggests that specific HR practices take on the social (S) aspect of ESG through managing as one part of the internal CSR. Then, particular HR practices can emerge and facilitate the full exploitation of synergies between internal and external CSR efforts. Finally, our findings indicate that building on the social identity theory and social exchange, reciprocity combined with organization pride will positively influence employee retention and performance.

Moreover, this study highlights the impact of CSR activities on firm-level employee performance from a strategic perspective. Prior studies mainly focused on the impacts of overall CSR on employee attitudes and behaviors such as organizational commitment ( Orlitzky and Swanson, 2008 ; Jones et al., 2017 ), organization identification, and extra-role helping behavior ( Shen and Benson, 2016 ). Thus, our study attempts to link CSR activities and HRM into financial or bottom-line results by utilizing firm-level retention and labor productivity variables from the macro HR perspective.

Furthermore, our findings contribute to our understanding of managing CSR initiatives and human resources in practice. Our results empirically provide evidence that P-O fit-based selection, performance-based pay, extensive investment of training and development, and suggestion system align well with external CSR activities, promoting the effectiveness of CSR initiatives. Therefore, firms need to recognize the importance of managing HR practices internally to integrate them into CSR strategies. A set of mutually complementary HR practices can be used to promote the success of CSR activities in organizations.

In conclusion, this research contributes essential insight to the CSR-HR literature from the SHRM perspective. Specifically, we recognized that the implementation of well-matched HR practices is consistent with core values embedded in the external CSR activities. In addition, employees’ perception of social identity and social exchange plays a critical role in affecting CSR-HR interaction. Therefore, the findings can help organizations make strategic HR management which can signify the CSR-HR interaction.

Limitation and Future Research

This study is not without any limitation that suggests further study needs. First, this research used the dichotomous measure that indicated the existence of a formal HR practice. Therefore, it did not assess the level of usage of “pay for performance” practices and employee suggestion programs. Secondly, this study did not directly test the underlying process through which employees’ social identity and the perception of reciprocity can affect the interaction between external CSR and HR practices in promoting work outcomes. Some refinements can be made in future research by utilizing case studies and employee perception surveys to illustrate a more understanding of the relationship. For example, a multi-level approach may help relate CSR initiatives and HRM to employee responses.

Second, it is also worth noting whether our focus on Korean firms can limit the generalizability of the findings. CSR activities have become a common practice and are viewed as an essential device where management directs firms through changing environments worldwide ( Crane et al., 2019 ). However, geographical context may matter as there is a great deal of variation in the regulatory environment regarding CSR. Thus, further research is necessary to verify that our findings are generalizable to other countries. Moreover, our empirical evidence does not indicate a reverse-causal relationship that posits more successful firms are more likely to use CSR activities and developed HR practices. However, our study calls for a further study investigating the long-term effect of CSR and its interaction with HR practices on organizational performance.

Finally, this study suggested that the HR practices such as selection considering person-organization fit, performance-based pay, extensive investment for training and development, and suggestion system must be aligned to external CSR. However, with the excepted practices mentioned above, future avenues of research may examine the effect of other HR practices, such as job design, employee socialization, performance evaluation, and working environment that can consider the full range of HR practices. However, this study is limited by using four practices due to data availability. Such limitation may leave room for future research that will explore a configuration of HR bundle or HR system that promotes the success of CSR initiatives.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author Contributions

J-YA and S-RB contributed to the conceptualization, methodology, investigation, and writing—original draft. M-CC and J-YA participated in the manuscript revision, review, editing, and validation. All authors performed the data collection, data curation, and formal analysis and have read and approved the final manuscript.

This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2019S1A5A2A01050740).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: corporate social responsibility, external and internal CSR, person-organization fit, pay-for-performance, training and development, employee voice, labor productivity, employee retention

Citation: Bang S-R, Choi M-C and Ahn J-Y (2022) Human Resource Practices for Corporate Social Responsibility: Evidence From Korean Firms. Front. Psychol . 13:893243. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.893243

Received: 10 March 2022; Accepted: 21 March 2022; Published: 07 April 2022.

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Copyright © 2022 Bang, Choi and Ahn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Ji-Young Ahn, [email protected]

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From a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, to far-off places with names we sometimes mispronounce, the journey that began in 1978 with 2 guys and the ice cream business they built is as legendary as the ice cream is euphoric.

- benandjerrys.ca

Now, let's take a look at how this small ice cream business has expanded its international presence whilst continuously promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to society in a positive way. A business may set environmental goals, follow ethical practices and internal governance, or set social objectives - these are all forms of CSR that are integrated into a businesses' operations and interactions with its stakeholders.

Introduction to Ben and Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's Homamade Holdings Inc. is an American ice cream company. The company was incorporated in 1977 and was acquired by parent company Unilever in 2000. Although it started out as a small business, it now operates globally in The Americas, Europe, The Caribbean, Asia and Oceana. The company produces over 50 different products ranging from ice cream to frozen yogurt to dairy-free ice cream options. All products are made with high quality and ethically sourced ingredients.

To source their ingredients, Ben & Jerry's uses a 'values-led sourcing approach' which supports supplier diversity, farmers and farmworkers, regenerative agriculture and shared value creation. The company is also centered around reducing the negative impact of its operations on the environment. They report regularly on climate change-related issues like their carbon footprint, use climate-friendly and energy-efficient freezers to store their products, use sustainable packaging and generate energy to power farms with their waste.

Ben and Jerry's mission statement

The mission and values of a company are an integral part of business strategy. They define the parameters by which the organization functions.

Check out our explanation on mission, corporate objectives and strategy!

Ben & Jerry's operates on a three-part mission that aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that's connected to our business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbors alike.

There are three separate parts to the organization's mission that helps them with internal business decision making . They include the:

Economic mission: with the objective of managing the company in a way that promotes sustainable financial growth by earning profits and increasing value for stakeholders.

Social mission: which aims to make the world a better place by pursuing innovative methods that aim to improve the quality of life locally and globally.

Product mission: to make the best possible products by using natural ingredients and promoting ethical business practices.

Together, these three core values provide a basis for not only the company's CSR strategy but also for overall business decision-making. As we can see, elements of CSR are already ingrained into the company's mission, meaning that the overarching aim of the business is to set every objective and make every important decision with these values in mind.

Take a look at our explanation on corporate social responsibility for a reminder on CSR theory and its advantages.

Ben and Jerry's CSR activities

Ben & Jerry's has implemented countless CSR activities into their business strategy over the past decades. The following section will provide a brief overview of key social and environmental activities.

In 1999 a couple of years after entering the UK market, the company launched fundraising activities for a UK kids-in-need network called Childline.

In 2004 Ben & Jerry's launched a campaign to encourage voter turnout among young people - they managed to register around 11,000 voters.

In 2005 the company protested drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Greenpeace.

In 2010 the company upped its fair trade commitment to support the Global Fair Trade movement.

In 2011 the company provided free ice cream for those protesting the rising levels of income inequality in the US.

In 2013 Ben & Jerry's stood with the consumer movement of supporting mandatory GMO labeling legislation and committed fully to using non-GMO sourced ingredients.

In 2014 they began innovating dairy-free ice cream to appeal to consumer demand.

In 2015 the company launched its global climate action campaign.

In 2016 the company urged consumers to join them in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ben and Jerry's CSR strategies

Although Ben & Jerry's is an ice cream producer, they are committed to making the world a better place through their core values. This makes up the basis of their CSR strategy.

Let's observe the company through Carroll's CSR Pyramid, which suggests that corporate social responsibility can be represented through a pyramid of four different types of responsibility. These include economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities.

Check out our explanation on corporate social responsibility for a reminder.

Let's take a look at how Ben & Jerry's addresses each of these responsibilities. Firstly, the company's economic responsibility is to ensure that the business operates in a profitable manner. This responsibility is met by the company as sales in 2021 have reached around 202 million units in the United States alone , suggesting that the organization's operations are profitable.

Next , observing legal responsibilities , the idea is that a company should follow all laws and regulations set by society. This responsibility is also met by the company's operations and compliance with reporting requirements, among other regulatory requirements.

The next layer of the pyramid includes ethical responsibilities which are based on the idea that a business should do what is right and fair. The company's mission statement mentions that its goal is to promote ethical business practices including creating value for all stakeholders, expanding opportunities for employees, sourcing products from local farmers, using natural ingredients, etc. These are examples of fair and ethical business practices that all companies are expected (by society) to follow.

Finally, the top layer of the pyramid includes philanthropic responsibilities , which ensure that the business contributes towards environmental and social goals. Driven by the company's mission statement and core values, Ben & Jerry's aims to create ice cream that changes the world through numerous means beyond just the product. By leveraging its operations and its platform, the company aims to advance human rights and dignity and support social and economic justice for marginalized communities, meanwhile protecting the planet's natural systems.

Let's explore this last layer in more detail by looking at specific examples. For instance, the company has been an advocate for social justice and social goals for numerous years.

In 2016 the company prompted its customers to join them in the Black Lives Matter movement and take a stand for justice and overcoming systemic racism. Recently, the company has taken this one step further by admitting that they can do more than just activism for social justice. As a result, they examined the social inequalities internally, within the company, and stated that “Ben & Jerry's is committed to becoming a truly antiracist company by eliminating racial disparities within the company” (benjerry.com).

From a different point of view, the company places significant emphasis on preserving and restoring the environment, which is apparent through their business strategy. Other than their countless climate action campaigns, examples of how the company attempts to follow its CSR objectives is by reducing their carbon footprint and reusing their waste. This is made possible by setting clear goals and having a realistic overview of their operations.

Due to the recent advances in technology, Ben & Jerry's knows how to estimate the carbon footprint of a tub of their ice cream and understands that a large portion of its carbon footprint comes from dairy, transportation and additional ingredients. By acknowledging this data, the company can realistically attempt to set off its carbon footprint through other sectors of its operations.

One of the ways they counteract the harm they cause the environment is through using their manufacturing waste to generate renewable energy.

According to external environment analyses, we know that the business's external environment can impact its internal environment. However, at times, the opposite also holds true. From Ben & Jerry's perspective, the company acknowledges that its internal practices can impact the external environment . However, by successfully implementing CSR practices, the company can ensure that its internal operational practices are impacting the external environment in a positive way.

To learn more about the impacts of a business's external environment take a look at our explanations on strategic analysis and the external environment.

The mission of a company is an integral part of business strategy and can often reveal a lot about the company's core values. In the case of Ben & Jerry's, sustainable and ethical business practices are clearly ingrained in its mission, allowing the company to effectively implement CSR strategy into its business practices. This has various advantages to the business and its stakeholders.

Implementing a CSR strategy allows the company to have a clear brand positioning strategy as a responsible ice cream producer . This can help attract new customers and assure existing customers that the ice cream they are buying is ethically sourced and environmentally friendly.

Additionally, it has various internal benefits such as risk management , whereby the company can make sure it complies with all regulations as their operations and processes are conducted in a responsible manner. CSR implementation also ensures that internal governance is appropriate and the internal corporate structure empowers employees rather than diminishes them.

Finally, Ben & Jerry's CSR practices also have a positive impact on the external environment , whereby the company attempts to reduce harm towards the environment and promote social justice globally.

Ben and Jerry's CSR - Key takeaways

Ben & Jerry's Homamade Holdings Inc. is an American ice cream company.

The company produces over 50 different products ranging from ice cream to frozen yoghurt to dairy-free ice cream options. All products are made with high quality and ethically sourced ingredients.

The mission and values of a company are an integral part of business strategy.

There are three separate parts to the organization's mission that helps them with internal business decision making including:

The economic mission,

The social mission,

The product mission.

Elements of CSR are ingrained into the company's mission, meaning that the overarching aim of the business is to set every objective and make every important decision with these values in mind.

This has various advantages to the business and its stakeholders including:

A clear brand positioning strategy,

Internal benefits,

Appropriate internal governance,

Empowering employees,

Positive impact on the external environment (including ecological and social environment).

Frequently Asked Questions about Ben and Jerrys CSR

--> what do ben and jerry's do for csr.

Ben and Jerry's carry out economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities as its CSR.

--> Does Ben and Jerry's support charity?

Yes, Ben and Jerry's supports charities. One such example is, in 1999, the company launched fundraising activities for a UK kids-in-need network called Childline.

--> Who does Ben and Jerry's sponsor?

Ben and Jerry's has always sponsored ethical and environmental business practices.

--> Who are Ben and Jerry's  CSR stakeholders?

Ben and Jerry's  CSR stakeholders include its employees, suppliers, distribution networks, and customers.

--> What is Ben and Jerry's major contribution to CSR?

Ben and Jerry's have contributed toward creating a positive environmental impact, empowering employees, and social and economic justice for all communities around the world, among many others.

Final Ben and Jerrys CSR Quiz

Ben and jerrys csr quiz - teste dein wissen.

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Show answer

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to society in a positive way.

Show question

How could a business implement CSR into its strategy?

A business may set environmental goals, follow ethical practices and internal governance, or set social objectives - these are all forms of CSR that are integrated into a businesses's operations and interactions with its stakeholders.   

What is Ben and Jerry's parent company?

What is a 'values-led sourcing approach'?

A 'values led sourcing approach' is used by Ben & Jerry's and supports supplier diversity, farmers and farmworkers, regenerative agriculture and shared value creation.

Name an example of something Ben & Jerry's does to reduce its negative impact on the environment.

They report regularly on climate change-related issues like their carbon footprint, use climate-friendly and energy-efficient freezers to store their products, use sustainable packaging and generate energy to power farms with their waste.

The ____ and ____ of a company are an integral part of business strategy.

Mission and values.

What are the three integral parts of Ben & Jerry's mission?

The economic mission, social mission and product mission.

Core values provide a basis for not only a company's CSR strategy but also for ________ .

Overall business decision-making.

What is Caroll's CSR pyramid?

A descriptive tool which suggests that corporate social responsibility can be represented through a pyramid of four different types of responsibility. These include economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities.

According to Caroll's pyramid, what are the four different types of responsibility?

Economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities.

What is a company's economic responsibility?

A company's economic responsibility is to ensure that the business operates in a profitable manner.

What is a business's legal responsibility?

A business should follow all laws and regulations set by society.

What are ethical responsibilities?

The idea that a business should do what is right and fair.

What are the philanthropic responsibilities of businesses?

Philanthropic responsibilities ensure that the business contributes towards environmental and social goals.

Name two advantages of implementing a CSR strategy. 

  • helping with brand positioning,
  • reducing risks,
  • empowering employees.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)  is a set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to profit maximisation.

A business may set environmental goals, follow ethical practices and internal governance, or set social objectives. These are all forms of CSR.

Making high-quality products with ethically sourced ingredients is a form of CSR companies can integrate into their processes.

Which of the following is not a form of CSR?

running marketing campaigns

The mission and values   of a company are an integral part of business strategy.

Which of the following is NOT included in Ben and Jerry's mission?

Environmental mission

In the case of Ben & Jerry's, core values provide a basis for not only the company's CSR strategy but also for overall business decision-making. 

The 'values-led sourcing approach' focuses on sourcing materials from local farmers only.

Reporting regularly on climate change is the best way companies can integrate CSR into their mission.

Core values provide a basis for not only the company's CSR strategy but also for overall business decision-making. 

Internal practices can impact the external environment.

The business's external environment can impact its internal environment.

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A Casebook of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility pp 85–103 Cite as

TATA Steel India: Corporate Social Responsibility Case Study Project

  • Kamal Singh 4 &
  • Tamanna Girdhar 4  
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Part of the CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance book series (CSEG)

This case study project examines the various CSR interventions and initiatives of TATA Steel India and analyses their impact on the society and on different stakeholders. The paper defines and draws meaningful conclusions about a corporate’s responsibility towards society and how they have a major role to play in sustainable development. Previous research on CSR and India’s CSR Policy formed the stepping stone for the analysis and future scope of this project. The main aim of the project is to provide a detailed understanding of CSR by providing fruitful insights about the CSR policy and interventions of TATA Steel India.

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Web Resources

https://www.tatasteel.com/media/12381/tata-steel-ir.pdf .

https://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CSRHLC_13092019.pdf . .

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Singh, K., Girdhar, T. (2022). TATA Steel India: Corporate Social Responsibility Case Study Project. In: Das Gupta, A. (eds) A Casebook of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5719-1_6

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Empowering the Heart of Assam: A Dive into Quick Heal Foundation's 'Cyber Shiksha for Cyber Suraksha' Initiative

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Interview with Philip See, Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Malaysia Aviation Group

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Visionary of Compassion: An Exclusive Insight into Hanuman Dass and His Transformative Journey in CSR Landscape

Visionary of Compassion: An Exclusive Insight into Hanuman Dass and His Transformative Journey in CSR Landscape

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China’s E-waste Challenge: Can Baidu’s Innovative CSR Initiative Lead by Example?

How to promote childhood, coca-cola india: is it an eco-friendly company*, how to stop fake news, society’s voice against unilever mercury contamination in kodaikanal, the black swan: the csr saga of inspired leadership intervention*, marketing an idea for facilitating urban food and environment security – experiences of iiibft, a chennai-based ngo, in promoting societal participation for sustainable development*.

Marketing an Idea for Facilitating Urban Food and Environment Security – Experiences of IIIBFT, a Chennai-based NGO, in Promoting Societal Participation for Sustainable Development*

Corporate Social Responsibility in an Indian Public Sector Organization: A Case Study of NTPC*

Youth for action (yfa): recognising ‘women’ farmers for poverty alleviation*, the land acquisition ultimatum: communication pangs and betrayal of csr legacy*, 'social engagement' in nurturing gen y as a professional with a difference: xiss as a brand master*, “swachh bharat abhiyan – leading to healthier life and prosperity”*, emerging challenges as facilitator of csr: jharcraft a new hope*, climate change: businesses must innovate for sustainability of our planet.

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CSR Case Studies Samples For Students

24 samples of this type

During studying in college, you will inevitably need to compose a bunch of Case Studies on CSR. Lucky you if putting words together and turning them into meaningful content comes easy to you; if it's not the case, you can save the day by finding an already written CSR Case Study example and using it as a model to follow.

This is when you will certainly find WowEssays' free samples directory extremely helpful as it embodies numerous professionally written works on most various CSR Case Studies topics. Ideally, you should be able to find a piece that meets your criteria and use it as a template to develop your own Case Study. Alternatively, our competent essay writers can deliver you a unique CSR Case Study model written from scratch according to your individual instructions.

CSR Law In China Case Study

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Role Of Icr In Enhancing Transparency, Reliability And Complexity Case Study Sample

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1. Outline the three most important points – in your opinion – in the Chairman’s statement [pages 2]

Example Of Case Study On Law Questions

Foundation course-, the jack welch era at general electric case study examples, free nike case study sample.

This paper is going to present a discussion on Nike’s main officers, their compensations and some corporate governance issues that the company is facing.

Nike’s Main Officers

The main officers in Nike include Philip Knight, the chairperson of the Board of Directors; Mark Parker, the President, CEO, and a member of the Executive Committee; Donald Blair, the Executive Vice President and also the Chief Financial Officer; Trevor Edwards, President of Nike Inc. Brand; Jeanne Jackson, President, product and Merchandising; Erick Sprunk, the Chief Operating Officer (Nike Inc., 2014).

Brief Description Officers

Good case study about public company case analysis, example of academic case study on accounting, martin marietta: managing corporate ethics (a): case analysis case study samples, specifically, how would you advise the ethics steering committee.

Major Issues faced by the Ethical Steering Committee The major issues faced by the ethics steering committee were as follows: Fear of RetributionFear of retribution existed among employees, which inhibited employees from sharing their ethical concerns with the management . Measuring Effectiveness of Ethics Programs It was challenging to measure the effectiveness of ethics programs for organizations . Recommendations for Ethical Steering Committee I would advise the ethical steering committee to adopt the following initiatives in collaboration with the organizations:

Advise Internal Analysis of Organizations

Marketing: tom shoes inc case studies examples, strategic management: an analysis of southwest airlines case study sample, case study on project management, free case study on unethical conduct at boeing, the stakeholders affected by unethical conduct at boeing, case study on gun control in the us.

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  1. (PDF) Four Case Studies on Corporate Social Responsibility: Do

    Apple, Canon and Walmart were involved in social CSR issues. Walmart was caught using child labor in Bangladesh and has faced gender discrimination charges. In 2010 the media reported on suicides...

  2. PDF Corporate Social Responsibility: A Case Study Of TATA Group

    This research paper moves around developing an understanding about the corporate social responsibility (CSR), delving into its concept and finding out its scope taking the case study of the TATA Group under Mr. Ratan Tata who has exemplified the sense of responsibility towards the upliftment of common masses and protection of the environment a...

  3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Implementation: A Review and a

    This review study is guided by three developments: (1) the growing amount of time and efforts organizations are putting in towards implementing CSR, (2) an upsurge in organizations' interests towards strategic CSR, and (3) recognition among CSR scholars of the need to understand how strategies are implemented (Elbanna et al., 2016 ).

  4. The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility

    Business management scholars have been searching for a business case for CSR since the origins of the concept in the 1960s. [1] An impetus for the research questions for this report was philosophical.

  5. 5 Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility

    What Is Corporate Social Responsibility? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business model in which for-profit companies seek ways to create social and environmental benefits while pursuing organizational goals, like revenue growth and maximizing shareholder value.

  6. Collaborative corporate social responsibility praxis: case studies from

    Design/methodology/approach. This paper uses a qualitative case study approach and draws a critical lens to document the complex interplay between dimensions of CSR, business sustainability and social issues, applying theoretical tools such as social capital theory and stakeholder theory to elucidate the nature of collaborative managerial responses to the organisation's challenges during the ...

  7. Corporate Social Responsibility

    This paper will identify CSR Activities, there ways of conduct By Tata Group of Companies emerging how it effect on the overall working of the company, their share price, and profit making ,and how Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are able to manage their CSR model in an efficient manner.

  8. Mapping corporate social responsibility practices at the international

    1. Introduction. The new millennium marked a dramatic shift in the discussion about corporate social responsibility (CSR). The idea that corporations had obligations toward society at large had already taken root (Agudelo et al., 2019).In the global north, the public's demand for corporate accountability had since been reflected by legislation and government policy (Knudsen, 2017).

  9. Corporate social responsibility as a strategic narrative: The cases of

    The multiple case study involves semi-structured interviews with senior managers responsible for CSR initiatives from the three selected UK project-based construction organisations. ... social" element, "prosperity" the "economic" and "planet" the "environmental" one. When it comes to CSR-related activities, the three project ...

  10. Full article: Corporate social responsibility and environmental

    2.2. CSR to employees. In the conception of the CSR another aspect discussed by the researcher which is related to the employees' Abbas (Citation 2020), Battaglia et al. (Citation 2014), Farooq et al. (Citation 2014), Shahzad et al. (Citation 2020) defined this concept as the organizational activities which are associated to the employees, as providing them growth opportunities, including in ...

  11. Corporate social responsibility research: the importance of context

    Research that considers both CSR activity and CSR reporting has traditionally focused on companies in more developed economies, predominantly the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand (Burritt and Schaltegger 2010; Frost et al. 2005; Gray 2006; Gurvitsh and Sidorova 2012; Othman and Ameer 2009; Patten 2002; Sahay 2004 ), but recently there has been ...

  12. Frontiers

    Introduction There is a rapidly growing interest in how organizations benefit or harm social welfare. Corporate strategies or actions in this area are often referred to as environmental, social, governance (ESG), or corporate social responsibility (CSR).

  13. Ben and Jerry's CSR: Activities & Strategies

    Introduction to Ben and Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's Homamade Holdings Inc. is an American ice cream company. The company was incorporated in 1977 and was acquired by parent company Unilever in 2000. Although it started out as a small business, it now operates globally in The Americas, Europe, The Caribbean, Asia and Oceana.

  14. Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility in Small and ...

    Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility in Small and Medium Enterprises—Employees' Perspective by Justyna Berniak-Woźny 1, Artur Kwasek 2, Hubert Gąsiński 3, Magdalena Maciaszczyk 4,* and Maria Kocot 5 1 Department of Management, University of Information Technology and Management, 35-225 Rzeszów, Poland 2

  15. TATA Steel India: Corporate Social Responsibility Case Study Project

    This case study project examines the various CSR interventions and initiatives of TATA Steel India and analyses their impact on the society and on different stakeholders. The paper defines and draws meaningful conclusions about a corporate's responsibility towards society and how they have a major role to play in sustainable development.

  16. A case study on Corporate Social Responsibility in NESTLE, TATA, ITC

    Dr Jagmet Bawa Punjab Technical University Abstract and Figures Since the times of the barter system to present era of plastic money, the mankind has stridden out long path. There is no doubt in...

  17. Study on Corporate Social Responsibility

    The key philosophy of RIL behind all their thoughtful CSR activities is guided by three core commitments: 1. S-Scale 2. I-Impact 3. S-Sustainability Objectives: To study the efforts taken by the companies in this field and their impacts on the company To find out how corporate social responsibility is serving as a determinant of corporate success

  18. Corporate Social Responsibility Case Studies

    Icfai Business School Case Development Centre has developed over 1100 world-class case studies. CSR Case Studies, Social Responsibility Case Study, Business, Management, MBA Case Studies Share

  19. Case Studies Archives

    Case Studies From a chawl to a sustainable township - The Journey of Bhendi Bazaar by India CSR January 13, 2023 676 The redevelopment project undertaken by SBUT comprises 16.5 acres of land divided into nine self-sustained sectors, with over 250 decrepit... Read more Case Studies

  20. Case Study on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

    Case Study on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) August 8, 2019 by Anjali J 1 Comment Definition: Corporate social responsibility refers to a sustainable business model where the company is accountable and responsible towards the social, cultural, environmental and economic aspects of the society.

  21. CSR Case Studies

    Monday - Friday. : 09:00 AM - 05:30 PM (IST) CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility is an approach where companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations. CSR case studies / Corporate Social Responsibility case study offers the implementation of social impact for business operations in a global context.

  22. CSR Case Study

    CSR Case Study. A look at Nike's approach to Corporate Social Responsibility as a Crisis Management Tool. This case study is designed to draw attention to the ethical quagmire that is CSR. Particularly the arguements that it looks good on paper but not in reality. It will also look at some theoretical approaches to divising a CSR strategy.

  23. CSR Case Study Examples That Really Inspire

    The Jack Welch Era At General Electric Case Study Examples. Jack Welch is an American business executive. He started a reconstruction of General Electric which later proved to be financially helpful for the company. He was the the Chief Executive Officer between 1981 and 2001.