Corporate Social Irresponsibility: A Challenging Concept: Volume 4


Table of contents

(24 chapters)
click here to view access options

List of Tables

Pages ix-x
click here to view access options
click here to view access options

List of Contributors

Pages xiii-xiv
click here to view access options
click here to view access options

About the Editors

Pages xix-xx
click here to view access options

Ralph Tench is Professor of Communication and Director of Research for the Faculty of Business and Law at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is a former Journalist and Communications Consultant. He was head of the UK's largest Public Relations and Communications academic department for 10 years at Leeds Business School until 2008. His research interests are in corporate communications, ethics, social responsibility and education. He is a member of the European Communication Monitor research team and is currently directing a pan European research team for the ECOPSI (European Communication Professionals Skills and Innovation programme), the largest EU-funded public relations research programme. Professor Tench is also managing research projects into communication strategies to tackle childhood obesity as well as communication dimensions of organisation's social and responsibility agendas. His work has been disseminated worldwide and translated in books and journals. He is a regular conference and keynote speaker at academic and practitioner conferences. During the last 12 months this includes keynotes and speaking at communication conferences in Istanbul, Chicago, Athens, Zagreb and Oslo.

About the Authors

Pages xxi-xxiii
click here to view access options

Victoria Olufunmilayo Ajala (PhD) is Reader at Department of Human Communications, Bowen University, Nigeria, holds a BSc (1st Class honours), two MScs in Advertising and PR and PhD in Communication. She has published books and several research articles in local and international journals, and is Fellow of the NIPR, a member of the ACCE and the APRA.


Pages xxv-xxvi
click here to view access options

Purpose – This chapter introduces this volume's topics, purpose and key themes.

Methodology/approach – This chapter reviews literature and chapters and offers conceptual development.

Findings – The difficulties of CSR in theory and practice are mainly due to its incomplete conceptualisation because its inseparable counterpart CSI has been eventually neglected or ignored in the CSR theorising process. The CSI concept is as equally important as CSR. CSI offers a theoretical platform to avoid the vagueness, ambiguity, arbitrariness and mysticism of CSR. CSI deserves to be a serious subject of inquiry and demands more scholarly attention.

Practical/social implications – With the aid of the CSI concept, CSR becomes more realistic and effective, as it is now more focused, practical and operational. While CSI is clear-cut, CSR is clearly meant, at the very least, to do well by undoing CSI. It is easier to promote CSR by addressing CSI first. The concept of CSI may allow everyone, including business practitioners, to concentrate on resolving the most important and urgent issues of public concern. It also encourages people to address the root causes of CSI problems in a systematic way. Doing so undoubtedly expands and enriches the understanding of CSR.

Originality/value of chapter – The concept of CSI has been less developed in academic circles. While the contributors of this volume have made significant contributions to the understanding of CSI, this chapter adds fresh reasoning and explanations to the development of the CSI subject.

Purpose – By exploring what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not, its opposite termed Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSI), we raise understanding and focus awareness on the material differences and associated arguments for and against.

Approach – Background, context, and theory introduce the concept of a continuum between CSI and CSR, which is illustrated in a progression of graphic figures.

Findings – Focus on the affirmation of CSR has distracted attention and resources from a more addressable concern: identification and denunciation of antisocial business behavior. Focusing instead on the opposite, defined here as CSI, avoids much of the ambiguity of CSR and presents a clarifying continuum between the two.

Originality – Using engaging logic, uncommon connections are made between such erstwhile polar-opposites as Friedman and Carroll to reveal broad agreement that CSI is destructive and can be universally opposed.

Implications – While promotion of CSR remains contentious, a broader range of business and thought leaders can find common ground by focusing on the CSI side of the continuum and uniting against it. Practitioners, academicians, and activists alike can agree that social benefits are greater from focusing on reduction of CSI rather than on promotion of CSR.

Purpose – To argue for the use of corporate social irresponsibility (CSI) proves far more useful in assessing arms makers’ limits of responsibility in a different way altogether. By focusing on the negative ‘externalities’ – that is impact on society – we are able to examine the practice in the context of constitutive and regulatory norms (i.e. the accepted rules), as opposed to norms that are merely evaluative (i.e. moral) or practical (i.e. what's possible).

Methodology/approach – This chapter examines the investment policies, practices and procedures of a handful of Australian pension and sovereign wealth funds in relation to investment in the development and production of cluster munitions – a class of weapon banned under international law since August 2010.

Findings – The chapter finds that the negative externalities inherent in armaments manufacturing demand that institutional investors view such firms through a ‘CSI lens’, especially when tasked with identifying and developing strategies to account for emerging social norms such as the prohibition of cluster munitions.

Practical implications – The investor is advantaged by having at its disposal a roadmap for managing – though not necessarily predicting – emerging social norms. This is so for ethical, responsible and mainstream investment approaches, although is most readily compatible with investors who have pre-established exclusionary policies as well as effective implementation procedures.

Social implications – A CSI approach to investment in cluster munitions as outlined in this chapter benefits society by inducing economic actors, such as pension and sovereign wealth funds, to direct their capital in such a way as to minimize humanitarian and environmental harm.

Originality/value of chapter – Proponents of the social responsibility of business and investment have seldom assessed the makers of conventional armaments such as machine guns, attack helicopters and battle tanks. Fewer still have attempted to devise and implement such programs within firms. Simply put, the prevailing argument is that arms makers and their financers are not capable of being socially responsible.

Purpose – This chapter engages critically with the ideas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and irresponsibility (CSI) in order to examine their utility for the purposes of realizing more socially just and environmentally sustainable social and economic practices.

Methodology/approach – The chapter develops Marx's understanding of the twin pressures of class struggle and inter-capitalist competition in setting the limits of agency for corporate actors. It is thus theoretical and discursive in nature.

Findings – The findings of the chapter suggest that the scope for corporate agency in relation to responsibility/irresponsibility is severely limited by inter-capitalist competition and capitalist social relations. It therefore argues that those interested in social justice and environmental sustainability should focus on these structural pressures rather than theorizing corporate agency.

Social implications – The research suggests that the focus of academic and government attention should be on resolving the contradictions and exploitative social relations inherent in capitalism. Without this emphasis activism, corporate agency and government action will not eradicate the types of problem that advocates of CSR/CSI are concerned about.

Originality/value of paper – The value of the paper is that it contests and engages critically with the utility of the notion of CSR and the emergent concept of CSI. It asks proponents of these concepts to think seriously about the structural pressures and constraints within which business and policy makers act.

Purpose – This chapter examines the central and potent role of ‘micro-moments’ in relation to the development and construction of corporately responsible cultures and environments.

Methodology/approach – The chapter engages a participant observational method set within an interpretivist methodology. The data generated take the form of vignettes which are used to explore the issues.

Findings – The discussion and argument demonstrate that while much worthwhile attention has been paid to the macro aspects and dimensions of corporate social responsibility, less scrutiny has been focused on the myriad micro-moments that operate to ultimately create macro-settings. The chapter illustrates the nature of micro-moments and shows their interactive nature combined with their consequences and implications for building corporately social irresponsible or corporately social responsible environments.

Research limitations/implications – The chapter underlines the vital role of micro-moments for corporate social responsibility. The data consist of a number of vignettes which illustrate a particular circumscribed setting. As is commonly the case with inductive research, further work, mindful of on-going reliability and validity measures, will be required to assess the generalisability of the findings across other sectors and organisations.

Practical implications – The chapter affords people working in organisations the opportunity to reflect on their actions in the micro-moment and scale them towards corporately social responsible outcomes.

Social implications – Improvement of micro-moment interactions should work to improve corporate social responsibility across a range of organisational settings.

Originality/value – The chapter constructs a novel argument in relation to micro-moments and demonstrates through original vignette data the impact and interplay of micro-moments for corporate social responsibility/irresponsibility.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to argue that utility maximisation, taken from a narrow economic understanding of rationality, frames contemporary business school pedagogy and management theory. The chapter will illustrate this observation by detailing the rational framing assumptions in social capital literature. The chapter will argue that these framing rational notions foster a perspective that inclines towards excessive self-interest as well as a concomitant lack of fellow feeling or morality.

Methodology – Literature review of Social Capital theory.

Findings – The chapter demonstrates that the narrow economic understanding of rationality that predominates as the framing notion in management theory tends towards amorality as it privileges individual self-interest. In consequence, the significance of ethics and cooperation are under-reported and under-emphasised which leads to Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSI). These observations are discussed with reference to social capital theory.

Research implications – To consider the significance of the under-acknowledged rational background or framing perspectives in distorting theory and empirical research in social capital literature, and more generally in contemporary management literatures and business school pedagogy.

Social implication – There is a need to re-examine and challenge the validity and application of rational notions in contemporary management literatures and pedagogy.

Originality – The chapter identifies that a narrow utility maximising understanding of rationality frames and therefore inhibits current management literatures and pedagogy, including social capital literature.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore the voluntary corporate governance role played by credit rating agencies, closing the ‘trust at a distance’ gap which might otherwise hinder fundraising in debt capital markets.

Methodology/approach – The chapter draws on Giddens’ system trust theory and Foucauldian perspectives of knowledge/power to unpack trust production as a discursive process in financial markets. Foucauldian discourse analytic techniques are used to examine texts deployed by or about Standard & Poor's, the global credit rating agency, leading up to the 2007 credit crunch.

Findings – The texts analysed illustrate the influence of rating agencies in producing trust as well as mistrust in debt instruments.

Research limitations/implications – Rating agencies produce trust by aligning with state regulatory systems, simplifying complex debt instruments with ‘AAA’ and other well-known mnemonics, as well as offering apparent transparency and guarantees.

Practical implications – While influential, rating agencies can only produce trust by proxy. Their contribution to the actual protection of investments is minimal.

Social implications – The analysis highlights the flawed nature of trust relations in debt capital markets as rating agencies’ primary customers are the arrangers and issuers of debt rather than the investors who seek protection from risk.

Originality/value – The chapter sheds light on the deliberate nature of trust production in financial markets. Five trust/mistrust production practices are introduced – protecting, guaranteeing, aligning, making visible and simplifying. Strategic trust production is established as part of corporate governance ideology in financial markets.

Purpose – Despite a long-standing interest in the responsibility of organisations, transgressions do occur. This raises questions about how these occur when there is so much focus on the legitimacy of organisations in being responsible. In this chapter, we draw on metaphors of communication as transmission and meaning making to consider the communicative approaches to CSR.

Methodology/approach – This chapter is a conceptual chapter drawing on literature review and cases to illustrate insights.

Findings – We suggest that while transmission models focus on highlighting responsibility, it is within the meaning making approaches that opportunities for responsibility and irresponsibility emerge as organisations and society negotiate the boundaries of organisational behaviours.

Implications – We suggest implications for how the meaning and criteria of ethical corporate behaviour are constructed.

Originality and value – CSR has not been studied extensively through a communication lens. An extensive literature review of various communication approaches to CSR that forms the foundation of this chapter offers important insights into how responsibility and irresponsibility are constituted through communicative efforts of organisations.

Purpose – When organisations behave irresponsibly, a question remains: Can they use a messaging strategy based in the organisation's commitment social responsibility to effectively respond to the crisis? The purpose of this chapter is to analyse stakeholder attitudes and their antecedents in such a case. Because of its scope, magnitude and use of a response strategy based on messages of social responsibility, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico serves as an excellent case for measuring the effectiveness of such a messaging strategy.

Methodology/approach – The present study drew from two data sources: a content analysis of interactions on BP's Facebook page (N=1,515) as well as an image survey of BP (N=749).

Findings – BP's messaging strategy had limited positive effects in terms of (1) being viewed as a ‘socially responsible’ organisation and (2) creating significant good will towards the company. However, these data also reveal that BP has effectively opened lines of communication between stakeholders and the company.

Practical and social implications – This study has two central implications. First, for both organisations and activists, personal investment and the relevance of issues are both critical in order to change stakeholder attitudes about organisations. Second, based on this research, we can begin to develop stakeholder profiles based on age, sex and political identity.

Originality/value – In the last couple of years, considerable attention has been paid to describing and analysing the response strategies that organisations deploy; however, scant attention has been paid to measuring stakeholder evaluations of those crisis response strategies.

Purpose – This chapter examines how structural dynamics of the global mining industry condition and limit the positive impacts of corporate responsibility and sustainable development strategies, despite considerable efforts on the part of both the Canadian government and the global mining industry to promote the twin concepts.

Methodology/approach – The chapter reviews current literature highlighting the structural elements of corporate irresponsibility in the mining industry, arguing for a radical reconceptualization of governance in the mining industry based on four dimensions of responsibility and backed by a flexible and robust international legal framework.

Research/practical implications – This chapter presents practical implications for improving policy for and regulation of mining companies, Canadian or otherwise, with international operations. While further research needs to be undertaken to explore in more detail the ideal roles of different actors in a system of international governance, this chapter provides a theoretical framework for integrating four dimensions of responsibility into a governance framework that can address the systemic dynamics of organized irresponsibility in the mining industry.

Purpose – This chapter examines Talisman Energy's operations in the Sudan, as part of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). It seeks to demonstrate that international corporate culture precludes ethical decision-making and practices by placing would-be ethical actors in untenable situations.

Methodology/approach – A case study approach is adopted. It analyses various lawsuits brought against Talisman by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, who claim that Talisman aided and abetted the government of Sudan in genocide during the various protracted conflicts of a violent civil war.

Findings – By reviewing Talisman's corporate social responsibility reports, we find that locating corporate charters in the hands of nation-states entails an inherent tension that can only be resolved by either implementing an international corporate charter in the case of multinationals, or abandoning the corporate charter altogether

Practical implications – We argue for immediate application of the International Criminal Court in The Hague against corporate enablers of government violence against its peoples.

Originality/value – In the case of Talisman in the Sudan, international corporate culture and lack of support from its operating partners did more than discourage Talisman from implementing ethical practices; it prevented Talisman from acting ethically. In particular, it prevented Talisman from using the economic importance of GNPOC to the government of Sudan to disallow the government from using Talisman's infrastructure or oil revenues in military campaigns against the peoples of Sudan.

Purpose – This chapter examines how irresponsible corporate activities (environmental pollution, human rights abuses, tax evasion, corruption and contract scandals) of some multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta influence stakeholders’ perception of their image/reputation in Nigeria.

Methodology – The objective of this chapter is accomplished through the review of literature on the activities of multinational oil corporations in the Niger Delta, supported by qualitative interviews and analysis of archival materials.

Findings – Three important findings emerged from this study. First, the participants were fully aware of the irresponsible behaviours of oil corporations in the Niger Delta, and some oil corporations were involved in these illicit acts. Second, the analysis of archival materials supports the participants' views with reference to the identities of the corporations involved in these criminal acts. Third, the absence of a strong corporate governance system in Nigeria makes it possible for the officials of oil corporations to tactically circumvent the law by involving in a maze of sophisticated corrupt acts.

Research/practical implications – The implication for the academics and practitioners is evident when a corporation implements corporate social responsibility dutifully; it generates positive impact on its corporate reputation rating. Conversely, when a corporation engages in irresponsible corporate misbehaviours, it attracts negative consequences on its reputation.

Originality – The originality of this chapter lies in the fact that it is the first empirical study to examine the impact of corporate social irresponsibility on the image/reputation of multinational oil corporations in Nigeria.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to recast downsizing as an act of corporate social irresponsibility by showing it to be contrary to ethical principles available to defend any course of action against the alternatives.

Methodology – Ethics theory is used to analyse the prevalent business practice of downsizing, drawing upon literature that examines downsizing and/or explains and demonstrates the application of ethical principles.

Findings – Downsizing, as defined in this chapter, is an unethical and irresponsible business practice because it reduces utility, ignores rights, creates injustice, breaks social contracts, creates agency relationships where none exist and fails to respond to the legitimate claims that employees, as a stakeholder, make upon corporations.

Practical implications – Change becomes necessary to the business practice of downsizing when it is carried out by profitable companies without proper appeal to ethics principles for justification. Ethical principles may, instead, suggest alternative courses of action or techniques.

Social implications – Downsizing (and other forms of mass layoffs) is not a morally neutral activity, as it engenders significant social implications (i.e. harm) that necessitate ethical consideration. Moreover, when business actions have social consequences, the interests of other stakeholders may become legitimate.

Value of the chapter – This chapter illustrates the formulation and application of principles that help guide business people to take morally right courses of action. It also serves as a template for analysing other aspects of the employment relationship for a more critical approach to corporate responsibility. As shown in this chapter, ethics can have more than a peripheral role in business decision making.

Publication date
Book series
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN