Introduction by Guest Editors Corporate Social Responsibility: International Perspectives

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this introduction to the special issue, we provide a brief review of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) literature with attention to some of the difficulties in globalizing the existing CSR concepts. Following this we provide a brief summary of each of the four papers that comprise the special issue, with emphasis on the unique contribution of each.

Introduction

As scandals spread throughout the corporate sector and into significant global organizations, such as the United Nations (Oil for Food Program), management researchers have begun to examine ethics and social responsibility from a more global perspective. Doing so has been hampered by the lack of research that has a global perspective. Much of the extant literature on CSR, which is still in an emergent stage, has a national (US) or regional (Europe) focus. This is not surprising given the different cultures, laws and institutions that provide the context for social responsibility.

In Spring, 2005, the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility of the Nottingham University Business School and the College of Business Administration of the University of Illinois at Chicago co-hosted a workshop on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Researchers in attendance came from across the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Many of the papers presented at this workshop offered a more global perspective of CSR. Some of these papers were, after review and revision, accepted for publication in this special issue of the Journal of Business Strategies. The papers in this special issue were chosen because they provide an international perspective of corporate social responsibility and promise to make a significant contribution to this broader, more global literature.

The remainder of this introductory paper is organized as follows. The next section outlines important areas of CSR research that have helped frame the important issues and offers some discussion of the difficulties of globalizing the extant perspectives. The final section offers a brief description of the papers in this special issue and how they contribute to the development of an international perspective on CSR.

CSR: Framing the Issues

Consistent with McWilliams and Siegel (2001), we define CSR as situations where the firm goes beyond compliance and engages in "actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law." This is only one interpretation of CSR, but confining the discussion to this definition allows researchers to move beyond simply defining and identifying CSR activities to serious examinations of the role of CSR in organizations.

Critical insights on the antecedents and consequences of CSR have emerged from a variety of social science disciplines including economics, political science, sociology, and numerous fields in management, including strategic management, organizational behavior, environmental management, economics, psychology, marketing, political science, and finance. One of the earliest and most cited perspectives on CSR was Friedman's 1970 New York Times Magazine piece in which he argued that the responsibility of managers is to maximize the return to shareholders and that any actions that further some social good, beyond the interest of the stockholders, can be viewed as deriving from an agency problem (Friedman, 1970). That is, managers who use corporate resources to further some social good are doing so only to advance a personal agenda such as promoting their self image.

An early challenge to Friedman's agency theory of corporate social responsibility was offered by Carroll who outlined a corporate social performance (CSP) framework (Carroll, 1979). This framework includes the philosophy of social responsiveness, the social issues involved and the social responsibility categories. This framework allowed researchers to test the relationship between social responsibility and firm financial performance (e. …

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