Academic journal article Management International Review

Attitudes toward Corporate Responsibilities in Western Europe and in Central and East Europe

Academic journal article Management International Review

Attitudes toward Corporate Responsibilities in Western Europe and in Central and East Europe

Article excerpt

Abstract:

* This study investigated the attitudes toward social, economic, and environmental corporate responsibilities of 3064 current managers and business students in 8 European countries.

* Participants in Western European countries had significantly different perspectives on the importance of these corporate responsibilities (CR) than those in Central and East European countries. Within each country, environmental CR is perceived as most important in both CEE and Western European countries. Across countries, Western European respondents accord more importance to social CR and less importance to economic CR. CEE countries are not homogenous, e.g., CR attitudes in the Czech Republic are closer to that of Western Europeans, possibly triggered by the accession to EU.

* Work experience (managers vs. business students) influences social and environmental orientations more than the economic orientation for only some countries. Generational differences were found as well: Business students attribute more importance to environmental CR and less importance to social CR than managers.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibilities. Europe. CEE. Social responsibility. Economic responsibility- Environmental responsibility. Institutions

Introduction

Despite pressures from the European Union to achieve European-wide uniformity in corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSER) standards by encouraging companies to voluntarily assume responsibilities beyond their legal obligations and by requiring national governments to enforce the use of internationally agreed standards, there remain significant differences across European countries in the implementation of CSER policies and practices (European Commission 2001, 2002; Habisch et al. 2005). Whereas ethical concerns have played a dominant role in Anglo-Saxon countries, environmental issues rule the CSER agenda in Northern Europe, and CSER is perceived as a means to advance social issues in Southern Europe (Habisch et al. 2005; Lenssen and Vorobey 2005). In Central and East Europe, there is less tangible evidence that CSER has been high on the business agenda. The accession of ten Central and East Europe (CEE) countries to the EU in 2004 and two more in January 2007 has raised significant concerns regarding corporate responsibility priorities in these transitional economies (Vaughan-Whitehead 2003). Within the European region, institutional and economic system integration presents substantial pressures for cross-national convergence on a high standard of corporate citizenship (Albareda et al. 2007; De Schutter 2008). Given the current diversity in socio-economic contexts as well as cultural and political heritages across Europe (Antal and Sobczak 2007), is cross-national convergence in corporate responsibility an unrealistic ideal?

Corporate responsibility (CR) relates to societal expectations regarding the social (discretionary, ethical, legal), economic, and environmental conduct of business organizations (Carroll 1979; Shrivastava 1996). The concept of corporate social responsibility and views on what constitutes responsible corporate conduct has evolved substantially since the 1950s (Carroll 1999). That corporate responsibility is a reflection of societal expectations directs us to consider the socially constructed nature of CR perspectives and practices (Basu and Palazzo 2008). The European region provides a fruitful site for investigating research questions concerning the antecedents and evolution of CR perspectives. Whereas Western European countries have played a leadership role in the formulation and adoption of CR practices, CEE countries are still regarded as laggards in this regard. One factor may be that CEE managers' perspectives on CR remain influenced by their historical socialist legacy (Ericson 1991 ; Kornai 1992) that is incompatible with current Western European expectations of corporate citizenship. …

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