Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Is CSR Embedded in the System of Corporate Innovation Objectives? Evidence from Poland

Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Is CSR Embedded in the System of Corporate Innovation Objectives? Evidence from Poland

Article excerpt


Growing global acceptance of the sustainable development (SD) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) ideas results in modifications in corporate and business strategies. Engagement in SD/CSR activities affects also firms' innovation strategies. Many scholars argue that the environmental and social challenges offer new opportunities for innovative firms, and that innovation is one of the important means by which firms can achieve both competitive advantage (necessary to achieve firms' strategic objectives) and sustainable growth. However, other studies on SD/CSR policies provide evidence that many firms approach the sustainability with unclear strategies, and implement CSR activities if it results in higher profitability and improved reputation.

Poland is still ranked low (25th) among EU member states in terms of propensity to innovate and belongs to the group of the moderate innovators with a below average innovation performance [IUS 2014]. Moreover, the results of EcoInnovation Scoreboard (Eco-IS), the tool to assess eco-innovation performance, show that like in the case of general innovation performance derived from Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS), there are striking differences between the EU15 and the New Member States in the overall eco-innovation performance. Poland is ranked nearly the lowest, gaining 42 points, whereas the average for EU15 is 100 points [Eco-IS 2013].

It is to note, that SD/CSR concepts gain on popularity in Polish firms. Vast majority of large and medium-sized firms believe that it is the responsibility of the business sector to respond to social and environmental challenges. The awareness that doing business in line with the CSR concept has a good effect on performance is growing in last decade, but these opportunities are not fully exploited, and financial effects of CSR activities are usually not measured. The most frequently reasons for engaging in CSR activities declared by firms are the improvement of firm's reputation and relations to local community [Responsible Business in Poland... 2015].

In this context, the purpose of our article is to identify the innovation objectives declared by Polish large and medium-sized innovative firms, and to assess the level of integration of CSR-related objectives into the structure of corporate innovation objectives. Our study is based on firm-level data from the Polish wave of the Community Innovation Survey (CIS), for 2008-2010. Based on results of statistical analyses, we revealed the statistically significant differences in declarations regarding innovation objectives among three clusters of firms (distinguished by CIS), depending on their innovation performance. Analysis of the position of CSR-related innovation objectives shows that they are linked to activities aiming at building cost-based rather than differentiation-based competitive advantage. Moreover, we show that the better performing innovators indicate higher importance of CSR-related objectives than firms less successful in innovation. Finally, we argue that the lowest importance of CSR-related objectives in whole structure of innovation objectives for all clusters of Polish innovating firms indicates that CSR is still not fully embedded in corporate strategies of Polish firms.

To our knowledge, not many studies address the SD/CSR issues based on CIS data [Leiponen and Helfat 2010], and the studies on relationships between CSR and innovation analyzed from managerial perspective are scarce [Öberg 2015], and the studies covering linkages between CSR and innovation objectives are in Poland non-existent. Thus, we intend to fill this gap.

The paper is organized as follows: in the next section we discuss theoretical context and propose a set of hypotheses to be tested empirically. Then, we describe our sample, methods of analysis and findings. Final sections provide a discussion of these findings, conclusions, and points to further research.

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