Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Social Responsibility as Organizational Culture in a Brazilian Mining Company: A Three-Perspectival Narrative

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Social Responsibility as Organizational Culture in a Brazilian Mining Company: A Three-Perspectival Narrative

Article excerpt


In this paper, I explore the multi-layered and multi-perspectival nature of the culture of corporate social responsibility (hereon 'CSR culture') of a major Brazilian mining company. To this end I borrow Martin's (2002) meta-theoretical framework to examine this phenomenon through three different perspectives or 'lenses': the integration view which emphasizes consensus; the differentiation view which exposes dissent, and the fragmentation view which reveals ambiguity. The application of this analytic framework produces a 'thick description' (Geertz, 1973) of the findings of the study--that is, a richly detailed three-dimensional account of the ideational, material and communicative elements of a CSR culture.

For the purpose of the study, I conceptualize organizational culture--not purely as a 'variable' that can be arbitrarily created, manipulated and sustained to suit managerial interests (Smircich, 1983)--but as 'in-depth, subjective interpretations of a wide range of cultural manifestations ... both ideational and material' (Martin, 2002). This perspective rejects the assumption that organizational culture has an objective existence 'out there', but rather it is a product of the interpretation of a range of phenomena by organizational members and researcher alike. Indeed, as acknowledged by Chia (1996, p. 42), the researcher plays a significant role 'in constructing the very reality he/she is attempting to investigate'. There is thus no pretense of objectivity in this paper. I write its narrative mostly in the first person in a self-reflective style to generate a new text which will bear my own interpretation of the phenomena examined. The purpose of this new text is to compare the narratives that emerged from the field with one another and also against the theories used to make sense of the fieldwork data (Czarniawska, 1997, pp. 54-72).

The paper is structured as follows: the first section defines the key theoretical concepts of the study; the second discusses Martin's meta-theoretical framework, and the third applies this framework to an interpretive study of the CSR culture of a large Brazilian mining company.


CSR is 'an essentially contested concept' (Gallie, 1962, pp. 28-32), as it has 'no clearly definable general use' that can be considered 'correct or standard'. This is evident in the numerous definitions of CSR found in the literature (de Bakker, Groenewegen, & den Hond, 2005). However, given that this paper is about CSR in a Brazilian mining company, I borrow a definition provided by a Brazilian institution called Ethos Institute of Business and Social Responsibility:

Corporate social responsibility is a form of management defined by the ethical and transparent relationship between a company and all the groups to which it relates, by the establishment of corporate goals compatible with the sustainable development of society. (Instituto Ethos, 2008)

Due to increased public demand over the past few years for greater accountability and transparency in the business sphere, the notion of CSR has become embedded in the discourses and practices of many business corporations, in particular those operating in sectors that have a negative environmental and social track record (e.g., mining, chemicals, timber). The embedding of CSR values in organizational discourses and practices often leads to the creation of a CSR culture that over time permeates the broader culture of the organization. As pointed out by Schein (2004, p. 15) this lends to the integration of the various cultural components 'into a larger paradigm or "gestalt" that ties together the various elements' into a more or less coherent whole.

Drawing on Martin's definition of organizational culture provided above, I define CSR culture for the purpose of this paper as subjective interpretations of ideational and material manifestations informed by the notion of social responsibility. …

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