This paper seeks to explore whether strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR), the latest stage of conceptual development in CR, is evident in real business practices.
Using Thailand as a context, the paper responds to the call for study beyond the developed economic regions. With a limited number of proactive companies in CSR in the country, this qualitative study employs in‐depth interviews supplemented with reviews of sustainability reports and other available corporate documents to explore the frontier of CSR practices in Thailand. The informants include key executives directly in charge of CSR and corporate direction in the organizations.
The assessment finds that a small group of recognized CSR leaders have started integrating CSR into their corporate strategy to gain competitive advantages, suggesting a gradual emergence of strategic CSR with various benefits. However, a mixed response from the market implies conditions for management consideration.
CSR can be viable in competitive strategy particularly in gaining a social license to operate and for corporate reputation. Nevertheless, balancing stakeholder interests should be managed with extra care. Positive stakeholder reaction in one issue may alleviate but cannot offset deeply rooted problems in another.
Based on the synthesis of several CSR models, this paper proposes a new stratification scheme to identify the stage of CSR development. The empirical results also indicate the development of strategic CSR in the context of emerging economy.
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