To read this content please select one of the options below:

Epistemological development of corporate social responsibility: the evolution continues

Norman Cameron Croker (Engineers Australia Hong Kong Chapter, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Lisa Robyn Barnes (School of Business, University of Newcastle, Springfield, Australia)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate social performance (CSP) in literature from its inception to 2013.


Using a bibliometric technique, the authors examine CSR’s epistemological orientation and determine whether it is primarily composed of authors building on each other’s work (“progressive”), or comprises the development of alternative constructs (“variegational”), or whether both orientations exist side-by-side within a dynamic, multidimensional concept.


The paper reviews bibliometric analysis of the epistemological evolution of the CSR concept within the management literature, from 1972 to 2002, using a dataset to that time of approximately 500 articles. Since then, the evolving CSR/CSP literature has transitioned the main CSR debate from a “whether or not to”, to a “how to” implement CSR debate, and the body of literature has grown to over 8,000 articles. The authors find that the progression of the CSR construct is both variegational and progressive. They identify that the predominant theoretical theme is based on stakeholder theory.

Research limitations/implications

The results of this research, identifying that the epistemological evolution of the CSR concept within the recent management literature can be characterised as being both variegational and progressive, adds a valuable contribution to the ongoing and increasing body of knowledge relating to CSR.


The results of this study may be of practical importance to scholars in identifying relevant foci for their future research into the CSR construct.



Croker, N.C. and Barnes, L.R. (2017), "Epistemological development of corporate social responsibility: the evolution continues", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 279-291.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles