Contesting Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an empirical domain to investigate how various parties –stakeholders, NGOs, social movements, firms, governments– seek to contest and affirm the legitimacy corporate behavior, in particular in relation to the social and environmental consequences of organizing. Often, such issues have been approached from a stakeholder perspective. This perspective has sensitized managers for the needs and rights of those groups in society that are not directly essential to the economic survival of the firm, but it has also produced a simplified picture of those groups. The stakeholder approach suggests (a) that there may be moral rights associated with such entities that legitimate their stake in the firm and (b) that given such rights the firm should strive for a balance between their interests and those of shareholders and other stakeholders.

As has been exposed by others before, such entities cannot be properly understood through the instrumentality that is associated with the idea of them being solely pursuing a particular stake (e.g., de Bakker & den Hond, 2008a, b). They are not just “interest-driven”; they also have identities (Rowley & Moldoveanu, 2003) and ideologies (den Hond & de Bakker, 2007) that influence whether, when, and how they will mobilize in relation to corporations. Hence, although it may be wise for managers to consider the legitimacy and urgency of the claims following from their interests and the power that they have (Mitchell, Agle, & Wood, 1997), the question really is how such entities may develop leverage over the firm (Den Hond 2010).

This question is addressed by analyzing CSR as a contested concept – in terms of discourse, praxis, and justification (Den Hond, De Bakker & Neergaard 2007) – from a combination of institutional, social movement, and network perspectives. It seeks to explain outcomes of CSR contests by examining the use of tactics, coalitions and networks and the role of standards.

further information
Recent publications Contesting CSR:

  • Hond, F. den, F.G.A. de Bakker & J.P. Doh. (accepted for publication). What Prompts Companies to Collaboration with NGOs? Recent Evidence from the Netherlands. Business & Society.
  • Wijk, J.J. van, W. Stam, T. Elfring, C. Zietsma, F. den Hond (accepted for publication). Activists and incumbents tying for change: The interplay between agency, culture and networks in field evolution. Academy of Management Journal.
  • Bakker, F.G.A. de. 2012. Exploring networks of activism on corporate social responsibility: Suggestions for a research agenda. Creativity & Innovation Management, 21(2): in press.
  • Hond, F. den & F.G.A. de Bakker. 2012. Boomerang politics: how transnational stakeholders impact multinational corporations in the context of globalization. In: Lindgreen, A., P. Kotler, J. Vanhamme & F. Maon (eds.). A Stakeholder Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility: Pressures, Conflicts, Reconciliation. Aldershot, Gower: 275-292.
  • Bakker, F.G.A. de & F. den Hond. 2011. A disputed contract: IHC Caland in Burma. In: Dubbink, W., L. van Liedekerke  & H. van Luijk (eds.). European business ethics cases in context: The morality of corporate decision making. Dordrecht, Springer:  121-139.
  • Bakker, F.G.A. de, I.R. Hellsten & A.M. Kok. 2011. Examining activists: Tracing networks and tactics on CSR. Notizie di Politeia: Rivista di Etica e Scelte Pubbliche, XXVII (103): 66-77.
  • Hond, F. den. 2010. Reflections on relationships between NGOs and corporations." Business & Society, 49(1): 173-178 
  • Hond, F. den, F.G.A. de Bakker & P. de Haan. 2010. The sequential patterning of tactics: institutional activism in the global sports apparel industry, 1988–2002. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 32(5/6): 648-665.
  • Pol, P.K.C. van de & F.G.A. de Bakker. 2010. Direct-to-consumer advertising and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics 94(2): 211-224