Changes in corporate social responsibility activity during a pandemic: The case of COVID‐19

Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 32 (S3):270-290 (2023)
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This study examines the practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR) during COVID-19. Little is known about how organizations practice CSR during acute exogenous crises. Overlooking how CSR practices change during a crisis matters because organizations are compelled into trade-offs that carry implications for their CSR initiatives. Analysis of interview data with CSR managers, from 21 Dubai-based business organizations during COVID-19, uncovers changes in the content and process of CSR during the pandemic. The results show that the practice of CSR underwent a fundamental change in focus as organizations shifted to an employee-centric model of CSR and away from an environmental one. Measures placed on organizations and society to combat the pandemic also led to a recalibration of stakeholder and issue salience, with notable effects on CSR that challenge the capability of the power–legitimacy–urgency framework to anticipate these shifts. We consider the impacts associated with the shift in the content of CSR initiatives and process of their implementation and discuss the implications of the findings for CSR theory, research, policy, and practice.



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