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CSR at scale: the relationship between corporate social commitment and social progress in developing economies

Keith L. Whittingham (Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA)

World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2042-5961

Article publication date: 7 April 2021

Issue publication date: 26 July 2021




In recent decades, companies have increasingly engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with the goal of providing benefit to both society and the company. While these efforts can have measurable social impact at the local level, the cumulative impact may be much harder to observe and measure, due to the wide variety in both the CSR initiatives and the social challenges they seek to address. This study is an initial investigation of the relationship between national levels of commitment to CSR and national measures of social progress, in a sample of developing countries.


Using country-level participation in the UN Global Compact (UNGC) as a proxy for the level of CSR commitment, and 2018 Social Progress Index (SPI) scores, we investigate the relationship between these variables. SPI component and sub-component scores serve as dependent variables in several OLS regression models. Independent variables included the total number of companies participating in the UNGC, along with economic and socio-political control variables.


Regression models indicate that higher CSR commitment levels are related with higher scores in the primary components of social progress, but only in some sub-components and not others. Practitioners and policymakers can leverage this understanding when developing and supporting corporate social initiatives.


To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to demonstrate the country-level impact of firm-level CSR commitment and is among the first to employ the Social Progress Index.



I thank Obioma Ezinwa for assistance in data compilation and William Seyfried for useful discussion in the early stages of this work. I am grateful to the editor and three anonymous reviewers, whose feedback and comments have enhanced the clarity and value of this study.


Whittingham, K.L. (2021), "CSR at scale: the relationship between corporate social commitment and social progress in developing economies", World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 515-525.



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