The Micro-level Foundations and Dynamics of Political Corporate Social Responsibility: Hegemony and Passive Revolution through Civil Society

Journal of Business Ethics 135 (4):769-785 (2016)
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Abstract

Exploration of the political roles firms play in society is a flourishing stream within corporate social responsibility research. However, few empirical studies have examined multiple levels of political CSR at the same time from a critical perspective. We explore both how the motivations of managers and internal organizational practices affect a company’s choice between competing CSR approaches, and how the different CSR programs of corporate and civil society actors compete with each other. We present a qualitative interpretative case study of how a French children’s clothing retailer develops CSR practices in response to accusations of poor working conditions and child labor in its supply chain. The company’s CSR approach consists of superficial practices, such as supplier audits by a cooperative business-organized nongovernmental organization and philanthropic activities, which enable managers to silence more radical alternative models defended by other NGOs, activists, and trade unions. By this approach, the core business model based on exploitative low-cost country sourcing remains intact through self-regulated CSR. Through the case study, we develop a framework of dynamism in competing CSR programs. We discuss the implications of our study for CSR researchers, company managers, and policy makers.

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