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Theoretical contributions towards rethinking corporate social responsibility

Maria João Santos (Lisboa School of Economics & Management, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)

Management Research

ISSN: 1536-5433

Article publication date: 17 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to propose incorporating another theoretical perspective enabling corporate social responsibility (CSR) to be approached more structurally and with correspondingly broader impacts. Despite CSR being associated with competitive advantage and providing recognised sustainability related benefits, it is argued that the individual CSR results of each company and community acting separately remain insufficient not only in terms of individual competitiveness but also in terms of achieving a global and systemic improvement.

Design/methodology/approach

It is from this perspective that the clusters concept and the territorial social responsibility (SR) concept are advanced as susceptible to bringing important insights for advancing SR. This article seeks to reflect on the potential of SR networks for strengthening competitiveness and bringing about sustainable development. Based upon a theoretical review of the CSR literature, limitations are discussed before setting out alternative action strategies for the construction of networks focusing upon generating territorial dynamics within the logic of global sustainability.

Findings

The idea of CSR clusters and territorial SR presupposes groupings of companies located in the same territory and engaged in some degree of interaction with other local actors to optimise practices contributing towards sustained regional development in an integrated and global perspective. The definition of social goals shared by different actors structured within a network thus improves the design and implementation of actions that extend beyond a micro-scale of action, with significant benefits accruing to local communities. Analysis of these forms of social innovation, based on integrated CSR networks, constitutes the central objective of the present research.

Research limitations/implications

This theoretical perspective is, in turn, based upon the assumption that only the consideration of a wider and more extensive conception of CSR, which aligns and guides various social actors (companies, civil society organisations and local authorities) and seeks to nurture integrated SR networks, will be able to drive development characterised by significant higher levels of sustainability.

Practical implications

These concepts (SR clusters and territorial SR) presuppose groupings of companies located in the same territory and engaged in some degree of interaction with other local actors are able to optimise practices contributing towards sustained regional development from an integrated and global perspective. The definition of social goals shared by different actors structured within a network thus improves the design and implementation of actions that extend beyond a micro-scale of action, with significant benefits accruing to local communities.

Social implications

Considering a larger scope of intervention, connecting different social actors (companies, civil society organisations and local authorities) and working for the construction of a development model based on the concept of sustainability constitute the relevance of clusters to CSR and the SR of territories.

Originality/value

This article highlights the position that SR, to have any effective and widespread impact, has to extend beyond isolated actions uncoordinated with overall territorial development. The challenge involves establishing a connection between the business level and civil society organisations in which each acts within their own spheres and with their respective specific competences and skills whilst able to ensure cooperation and engagement in actions focussed upon improving the quality of life of the host community and bringing about cluster development in overall terms. This theoretical perspective is, in turn, based upon the assumption that only the consideration of a wider and more extensive conception of CSR, which aligns and guides various social actors (companies, civil society organisations and local authorities) and seeks to nurture integrated SR networks, will be able to drive development characterised by significantly higher levels of sustainability.

Keywords

Citation

Santos, M.J. (2014), "Theoretical contributions towards rethinking corporate social responsibility", Management Research, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 288-307. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRJIAM-12-2013-0533

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited