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Historical background of corporate social responsibility

Rosamaria C. Moura‐Leite (PhD candidate, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain)
Robert C. Padgett (PhD candidate, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has a long history associated with how it impacts on organizations' behavior. In order to understand CSR's impact on organization behavior, therefore, it is necessary to comprehend its progression. Subsequently, the purpose of this paper is to trace the conceptual evolution of CSR.


The paper reviews the literature and adopts a chronological structure organized on a decade‐by‐decade basis. The results demonstrated that CSR research has changed constantly during the last 60 years.


In the 1950s the primary focus was on businesses' responsibilities to society and doing good deeds for society. In the 1960s key events, people and ideas were instrumental in characterizing the social changes ushered in during this decade. In the 1970s business managers applied the traditional management functions when dealing with CSR issues, while, in the 1980s, business and social interest came closer and firms became more responsive to their stakeholders. During the 1990s the idea of CSR became almost universally approved, also CSR was coupled with strategy literature and finally, in the 2000s, CSR became definitively an important strategic issue.

Research limitations/implications

The focus of this work is on researches that have generated much of the original discourse on this issue, since it is difficult to cover all of the existing literature. In addition, this analysis of the conceptual evolution of CSR started with Bowen's, although earlier references can be found.


This paper provides didactical information of the conceptual evolution of CSR, also it advances on the discussion of the progress of CSR throughout time that has caught the attention of several researchers and finally it provides recommendations for further studies.



Moura‐Leite, R.C. and Padgett, R.C. (2011), "Historical background of corporate social responsibility", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 528-539.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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