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Socio-cultural Differences in Understanding and Development of Corporate Social Responsibility in Germany and Croatia

The Critical State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe

ISBN: 978-1-78756-150-2, eISBN: 978-1-78756-149-6

ISSN: 2043-9059

Publication date: 19 July 2018



Recently, authors have determined varieties in the development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within Europe. This chapter examines similarities and differences in sustainability and related CSR developments in two contrasting European countries, namely Germany (industrialized society) and Croatia (transitional society). It has been argued that sustainable development is an industrial phenomenon common among Western European countries and the USA, often marked as post-industrial societies, and usually not observed in post-socialist and transitional societies which are confronted with an inner need for economic, political, and overall (re)structuring. Concerning differences within Europe, the concept of sustainable development in general and CSR concepts, in particular, have been described in the literature as less advanced in Eastern European countries than in Western European countries. Taking into account socio-cultural influences on the way CSR is understood and practiced, this study discusses this assumption and also addresses the question whether CSR is differently developed and not implicitly less developed.


As an illustrative example, a small empirical study was conducted to examine whether consumers in Croatia are actually less prepared for CSR, and, on the other hand, whether they just focus on different dimensions of CSR than consumers in Germany. In more detail, it examined differences in participants’ attitudes, social norms, and perceived level of control with regard to sustainable fashion consumption between German and Croatian consumers.


The study’s findings support the assumption of previous studies that consumers’ lack of interest in CSR and knowledge deficits in this regard are likely to be a barrier for CSR development in Croatia. Yet, it also illustrates that the CSR development in Eastern European countries should not automatically be seen as less advanced but in some parts just as different. Findings from the study on differences with regard to the importance of different sustainability dimensions, namely the social and environmental dimension of CSR, support the assumption that the way CSR is understood and practiced differs due to socio-cultural differences.

Research limitations/implications

As the understanding and development of CSR seem to depend on the socio-cultural context, further research is needed to examine which concepts are present in Croatia concerning sustainability and CSR.

Practical implications

The findings provide information on the current status of CSR development and sustainable development in two differently governed nations of the EU, namely Germany and Croatia. Resulting practical implications for CSR strategies of companies and interventions to support CSR development and sustainable consumption patterns in both countries are discussed.


Comparative CSR studies, especially within Europe, are in general rare and in particular, this study is one of a so far very limited number of studies on CSR in Eastern Europe.



Bögel, P.M., Lovrić, I.B., Bekmeier-Feuerhahn, S. and Sippel, C.S. (2018), "Socio-cultural Differences in Understanding and Development of Corporate Social Responsibility in Germany and Croatia", The Critical State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe (Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Vol. 12), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 161-178.



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