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Implementing SA8000 certification standards: An analysis of managerial cognitive maps

Eric Davoine (Department of Management, University Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland, and)
Delphine Gendre (Control Solutions, Fribourg, Switzerland)

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The aim of this paper is to identify difficulties and tension fields encountered in a Social Accountability (SA) 8000 certification process. The paper is based on a case study within a multinational small–medium enterprise (SME) during the implementation of a SA8000 standard.


In the framework of the case study, we adopt a cognitivist approach and use cognitive maps to describe and analyze the corporate social responsibility (CSR) representations of the main actors of the certification process: the owner-manager of the SME and the certification manager. We collected additional information on the case company through document analysis, additional interviews, validation interviews, confrontation interviews and follow-up interviews after one year.


The analysis of cognitive maps revealed tension fields and difficulties linked to the different representations of social responsibility between the social accountability standard SA8000 and the owner-manager strategic vision. It also underlines the sensemaking role of the certification manager in the certification process.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of the research are the explorative character of an illustrative case study and the limits of the construction of cognitive maps. The cognitive perspective brings new insights into the certification process and into the interaction between middle and top management.

Practical implications

Implementing a CSR standard necessitates a cognitive change of individual representationsto integrate CSR standardized criteria in the complex, idiosyncratic and systemic representations of the main actors.

Social implications

The case study shows clearly the tensions existing between the CSR representation based on a social standard and the CSR representation of SME owner-managers.


Cognitive mapping has been often used to analyze and to discuss strategic vision of SME owner-managers, but rarely in the field of CSR. The confrontation of two maps and the complementary analysis of the case study context bring additional perspectives on implementation difficulties.



Davoine, E. and Gendre, D. (2014), "Implementing SA8000 certification standards: An analysis of managerial cognitive maps", Society and Business Review, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 258-275.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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