The Critical State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe: Volume 12

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Table of contents

(19 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxiv
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Part I Introduction

Part II CSR Policies and Approaches at the EU and National Level: A Critical Review

Purpose

The chapter aims to explore the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy domain at EU decision-making level, aiming to understand the nature of the participation shaping the CSR policy agenda co-design.

Design/methodology/approach

Building on a conceptual framework of participation, the chapter highlights the literature and policy views around the importance of EU CSR policy and how EU envisage the framework of the CSR policy co-design. By highlighting conceptual dimensions of the participatory governance, different levels of participation that shape the policy are evidenced. In particular, a case analysis emphasising the predominant role of the consultation approach in the decision-making process of the CSR policy is undertaken.

Findings

The findings shed light on the shift from the traditional passive participation in EU CSR policy decision making, based on purely communications towards consultation and multi-stakeholders participation. From the multi-stakeholder perspective, the EU Multi-Stakeholder Forum’s strategic relevance is observed, however, with no clear mechanisms to enforce its aims. Although the CSR policy is a core priority on the policy agenda, its voluntary approach justifies its early stages of implementation and fragmented use.

Research limitations/implications

The research is qualitative, based on literature review and policy view. Further research directions could enrich the chapter.

Originality/value

The research contributes to the theoretical discussion around participation in a supranational context. Our insights shed light on the levels of participation and CSR policy goals and call for a critical debate on the EU policy co-design processes. Furthermore, through the lens of a case analysis, it sheds light on how EU CSR forum fits in with the current EU structure and its ‘principle of subsidiarity’, which states that decisions must be taken close to its citizens.

Purpose

This chapter analyses how corporate governance codes in Europe approach CSR, devoting specific guidelines or recommendations or specifying the responsibility of implementing and disclosing CSR in the company.

Design/methodology/approach

Content analysis have been used in a sample of 27 corporate governance codes of 27 European countries, issued in the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK), issued by governments (seven codes), national stock exchange (eight codes), industrial associations (six codes) and composites (six codes).

Findings

Only five out of 27 codes make and explicit reference to the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Two of them reflect the importance of a CSR Report (Slovenia and Spain), whereas the Spanish Code was the only code which devoted a section to the implementation of a CSR policy.

Social implications

Although corporate governance codes could represent an opportunity to shift the focus from an implicit CSR approach to an explicit CSR approach in Europe, the truth is that content related to the issue and its level of specificity does not reflect that change yet.

Originality/value

Previous literature has not focused on the analysis of corporate governance codes from a CSR perspective, so the chapter is relevant for policy makers when it comes to updating corporate governance codes.

Purpose

We believe that the inclusion of people with disabilities (PWDs) in the workplace, the provision of the right of PWDs to decent work involves an exemplary field of social issues that provides a firm foundation for exploring the nature and interplay of (EU and local) policies and also it could be interesting to relate this to the policy changes of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Design/methodology/approach

In our chapter we decided to have a look at these relationships on a national level, but we believe that the points raised reach far beyond the borders of Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe.

Findings

First, we provide a short summary of the development of European and Hungarian policies and regulations considering the employment of PWDs and their connection to the development of EU level and Hungarian CSR policies. We identify three phases in both topics and highlight their parallel developmental shift at the beginning of the 2000s. Second, we highlight the very recent governmental policies of CSR and employment/inclusion (especially the rehabilitation contribution). Third, we argue that whilst PWDs as a topic is relevant in the declarations, guidelines and policies of international and national organizations, the rights of PWDs, their inclusion in society and the world of work are neither among the current topics of enterprises’ and corporates’ CSR practices nor in scientific debate.

Originality/value

Based on two case studies, we show some good practices and formalize general learning points, opportunities and the potential risks of employing PWDs as part of CSR activities.

Purpose

The topic of CSR and sustainability has gained great popularity in the past 20 years, especially among companies. While companies already have some experience with various approaches and their respective results, the same have not been assessed on national level. This chapter aims at providing an answer to the question “Which governmental approach to CSR leads to better results – active or neutral?”

Design/methodology/approach

In the chapter, the concepts of “active” and “neutral” governmental approaches are defined and explored. Having defined and distinguished between the approaches of governments, all EU countries have been assessed and assigned an “active” or “neutral” role. As a second dimension of the study, a sustainability ranking is taken, which compares the results of the countries in fields, often addressed by CSR. The ranking of the EU countries was then compared to their role in search of dependencies.

Findings

Clear links between the sustainability results and the government approach to CSR were not established in this study. Some relationships were found between the neutral governmental role and lower sustainability results. Nevertheless, assuming an active approach does not guarantee a top position of the country.

Research implications/limitations

Some of the major limitations of this work were related to the existing sustainability rankings of countries and the limited assessment of the results of governmental actions in the field of CSR. The current rankings and assessment are based on indictors, which sometimes cannot be related to governmental actions or policies, rather to the resources of the country. Additionally, there are hardly any publicly available assessments of the actions or policies of member-state governments.

Practical implications

A comparison of such type can be a useful guideline for governmental decision-making. A more detailed analysis of potential CSR approaches and their effectiveness can be transformed into specific recommendations to public authorities in the EU.

Social implications

The topic of CSR by definition is driven by social needs and opinions. The current study can be a useful tool in public discussions of governmental policies and their potential outcomes.

Originality/value

This is a novel study which assigns roles to EU governments and cross-references them to existing sustainability results in an attempt to draw conclusions about policy effectiveness.

Content available
Purpose

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often characterized as a voluntary approach, but CSR policy is on the rise: Governments have started to promote CSR by raising awareness, launching partnerships and platforms, providing financial incentives and requiring environmental and social reporting (Albareda, Lozano, & Tamyko, 2007; Gond, Kang, & Moon, 2011; Steurer, 2010; Steurer, Martinuzzi, & Margula, 2012). This chapter describes how the German government facilitates CSR, that is it analyses the main instruments at the national level and takes a look at the motivation of the German government.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on the framework of CSR policy developed by Steurer, Margula, and Berger (2008) and Steurer (2010), the chapter examines CSR initiatives in five areas: informational or endorsing instruments, partnering instruments, hybrid instruments, financial or economic instruments and soft legal instruments. The analysis rests on a documentary review of various sources referencing German CSR initiatives.

Findings

German CSR policy comprises all sorts of instruments, whereas hybrid instruments play an important role: the Strategy for Sustainable Development, the National CSR Forum and National Action Plan on CSR as well as the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights.

Originality/value

This chapter contributes to the rising literature on public policies on CSR by discussing the manifold measures that the German government has developed to support CSR.

Purpose

This chapter examines Slovenia’s failed attempt to develop a national corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy via multi-stakeholder partnership. It also discusses the potential reasons for this failure.

Design/methodology/approach

This research is grounded in the idea of CSR as a ‘politicised’ concept, acknowledging the importance of the institutional setting and institutional support in diffusing CSR. This empirical research is based on a descriptive case study approach and a qualitative thematic analysis of the data. The data sources are IRDO institute documents, the minutes of the Partnership for National CSR Strategy provided by the Network for Social Responsibility of Slovenia and semi-structured interviews with various actors such as government and local representatives, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), companies and journalists.

Findings

Although the multi-stakeholder Partnership for National CSR Strategy, which was initiated by NGOs and other stakeholders, existed from 2011 to 2013, it later fell apart due to various factors, the most important being a complete lack of support on the governmental side, with the government being the actor with the executive power to implement and promote CSR policies at the national level.

Social implications

The chapter provides an insight into the drawbacks of attempting to set a national CSR policy agenda and discusses the reasons for these drawbacks.

Originality/value

This chapter discusses the importance of the economic, political, and social context in which multi-stakeholder networks can foster the national CSR debate. It recognises the role of CSR in co-regulating public policies and the importance of strong engagement among relevant stakeholders and public authorities.

Part III CSR Development in Europe: Contextual Differences and Understandings

Purpose

Contemporary debates on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are framed in a global context; however, there is ample evidence that national and institutional frameworks define CSR practices. Questions about the activities of Transnational Companies (TNCs) in their host countries further highlight growing CSR concerns, developments and challenges in specific regions. Our aim in this chapter is to examine the theoretical arguments on the relationship between context and CSR, looking at the role of situational conditions in driving responsible corporate behaviour in a global environment.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on discourse analytic concepts, we use insights derived from our comparative research on transnational companies’ (European and non-European) self-presentations of CSR-related actions in a developing country, Ghana, to illuminate our argument.

Findings

The discussions demonstrate that context relationships are crucial in CSR practices since they contribute to a wide variety of implicit meanings that provide in-depth understanding of companies’ responsibilities in specific regions. Our empirical analysis showed that linguistic categories of the TNCs related more to responsibilities that focused on ethos than logos, which suggests credible CSR messages to a large extent.

Originality/value

The chapter contributes to the emerging literature on the context-specific nature of CSR in two important ways. First, it provides insights to further the debate on the utility of balancing local and global requirements in corporate CSR actions. Second, our linguistic-based model of analysing CSR communication content, which we demonstrate from our study, offers a novel approach to assess companies’ real intentions, motives and perspectives on CSR in the wake of growing corporate scandals.

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Part IV CSR Perceptions and Attitudes: Stakeholder Perspectives

Purpose

The overall goal of this chapter is to critique the purported business case for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, which persists as a major contentious force in convincing companies to become more sustainable. Extant literature on sustainability, CSR and Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs) generally tends to focus on company perspectives decision-making and approaches. This chapter considers an alternative and under-developed perspective and examines CSR from a consumer/public perspective situated in a German context.

Design/methodology/approach

This chapter builds a comprehensive literature review and employs a research philosophical point of view underpinned by a social constructionist stance. It examines indicators and attitudes towards sustainability and sustainable consumption together with socially responsible investments and considers whether the buying patterns of German consumers may serve as a rationalisation for a potential business case for CSR and sustainability.

Findings

While the awareness of consumers of CSR in Germany towards sustainability tends to be generally relatively prima facie high, it is nevertheless noticeable that German consumers are predominately reluctant to pay a price premium for product possessing a superior sustainability performance. From the alternative lens of SRIs, rather than being a replete and widespread phenomenon, they are still largely a niche market. For these reasons, the potential for the existence of a business case for sustainability, CSR and SRIs tends in reality to be low, in spite of some populist or survey reports and perceptions.

Originality/value

The chapter links a consumer perspective with the business case for CSR. Moreover, it focuses on the German context which tends to be underrepresented in international research.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to develop a deeper understanding of the CSR perspectives of MBA in the European context. The chapter will review literature from the USA and Europe focused on business school ethics and the CSR. The chapter will then present the findings generated from research into MBA students’ ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) from a European business school research site.

Design/methodology/approach

This was inductive research that used qualitative, semi-structured interviews, along with other qualitative techniques, to collect data. The research population was purposely selected from two cohorts of MBA students, one comprising P/T, the other F/T students.

Findings

The research confirmed that there are broad similarities between the USA and Europe, in terms of students’ experiences of business school scholarship and pedagogy. The research also confirmed, however, that these European-based students wanted a greater focus on CSR, for instance in terms of addressing the relationship between business and the environment, which students do not consider is adequately addressed in their programmes. Furthermore, and reflecting US experience, students reported at the completion of the MBA that they were conscious that they had become more focused on their individual ‘rational’ self-interest, with the goal of increasing their own material success. Not all of these students were content with this change, but they reported that it had been embedded within them, as a consequence of studying for an MBA.

Social implications

US-based research and this example from the European context both point to the conclusion that there is dominant instrumental paradigm in HE business and management pedagogy. This paradigm needs to be challenged to restore society’s ethical and CSR expectations, and also to facilitate the moral education of more socially responsible MBA graduate managers. The research confirmed that students are very much in favour of CSR framed changes to the MBA programme.

Originality/value

This chapter contributes to a developing research stream into MBA programmes and CSR in a European context.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate the role of business schools in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible management education from the business school students’ perspective, and to develop a framework for effective CSR education that meets the Polish students’ expectations.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter starts with a review of CSR concept evolution and importance, with a strong focus on Poland. Next, the review of the responsible management education state in Europe and Poland is presented. Then, an evaluation of CSR and responsible management education in Polish business schools from the students’ perspective is conducted. The evaluation is based on a survey amongst business students of a non-public Polish business school. The practical dimension of the chapter takes the form of a framework of effective CSR education in Polish business schools, presented at the end.

Findings

To sum up, the demand for CSR competencies and responsible management is on the rise, both amongst students and employers. The existing international initiatives and accreditation standards give a general idea about the shape of responsible management education, but the exact model must be developed on the regional/country level, as it must include various factors such as the economy, history, culture, academia-business relations or even the dominating teaching model.

Originality/value

The chapter provides a conceptual framework for CSR and responsible management education for those business schools operating in the Polish business context.

Part V CSR Implementation in Organisations: Radical Changes and Challenges

Purpose

This chapter intends to explore the emerging concept of fiscal responsibility (FR), a particularly relevant issue in Europe. There is an ongoing debate about what are companies responsible for, the reasons and the limits for this responsibility. And while the social awareness for this issue increases it is not clear whether corporate tax dealings can be articulated into the wider realm of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter begins with a brief review of today’s situation in terms of corporate taxation. The changing environment of corporate taxes (from local to global) is described. Production processes are fragmented all over the world, and in the European Union, across national borders of their member States. This complexity is compounded by the increasing dematerialisation of business processes, the higher importance of intangibles and the use of subsidiaries in low-taxed jurisdictions.

Findings

The elusive concept of FR is analysed, along with a discussion on the nature of the firm and the limits of tax regulation, particularly the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate tax avoidance.

Originality/value

Having seen how FR is now emerging, the last part of the chapter analyses the common understandings of CSR today, along with two specific challenges for FR in the realm of CSR. Finally, there is a tentative proposal on how FR may articulate with different theories of CSR.

Purpose

The chapter discusses the conditions under which a transport small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) engages in strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how complex new technology might be adopted.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter is based on the case study of a transport SME engaging into greening its transport activity with electric trucks.

Findings

The case study gives an insight into adoption conditions of radical new technology by an SME where collective adoption is required to make the new system efficient. It suggests that an industry leader undergoes the trial stage to favour later infusion of the innovation across the given industry. It is also shown that strategic CSR from SMEs is hampered by the complex setting into which new technologies are embedded.

Practical implications

Environmental concerns engage companies in important technological changes. In order to set up their strategy, SMEs should get involved in professional organizations within their industry and across industries, to benefit from information and ultimately to facilitate adoption where multi-user adoption is a key technology characteristic.

Originality/value

The work introduces the challenges of transition economy and new technology adoption in the prospect of greening transport activities. It shows the eco-systemic nature of ongoing changes and the necessity for SMEs to network within and across industries.

Purpose

This chapter proposes frugal eco-innovation as an eco-efficient way into which firms might shift their existing business models, exploring how firms are able to cut costs and reduce negative environmental impacts simultaneously.

Design/methodology/approach

This work introduces the concept of frugal eco-innovation based on numerous examples about how several European companies are adopting this management perspective. These examples are obtained from these companies’ public environmental reports.

Findings

A summary of how cost reduction could be achieved by firms on the basis of frugal eco-innovation; further, the pathway for how managers could achieve an effective implementation of frugal eco-innovation.

Practical implications

By developing frugal eco-innovation, managers are able to benefit from a management alternative that is ecologically sustainable and economically profitable.

Social implications

This work highlights how frugal eco-innovation could benefit, on the one hand, firms via the achievement of cost reduction and, on the other hand, the society in general via the diminution of the negative environmental impacts generated by the business activity.

Originality/value

This work analyses a management orientation that could be implemented in order to shift business models towards a more ecological production, highlighting how firms are able to do more with less.

Purpose

Recently Italy has engaged in an extensive promotion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for not-for-profit organisations (NPOs). A major reform of the sector was approved in 2016, with the aim of combating corruption. Accordingly, NPOs will be eligible to receive public funds and tax benefits only when they demonstrate that they produce social impacts through their activities. To give an account of the social impacts produced, the reform introduced mandatory reporting requirements: the formulation of a social report (SR) that has to be published on the NPO’s website along with its financial statement.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter first reviews the Italian ongoing path of reform for NPOs, focusing on the mandatory reporting requirements. Second, it reviews the previous empirical research on SRs in Italian NPOs to provide a picture of the voluntarily reporting practices before the recent reform entered into force.

Findings

The chapter finds that SRs in Italian NPOs are in their infancy. They are not used to disclose social impacts or to legitimate NPOs. SR practices usually lack common frameworks, disclosure of outputs and outcomes, stakeholder engagement, dissemination and assurance by third parties.

Originality/value

The chapter contributes to the international debate on CSR by providing the perspective of reporting requirements and practices in Italian NPOs. It analyses the ongoing reform of NPOs and gives the stock of SR practices prior to the reform entering into force. This makes it possible for future research to assess the impact produced by the reform.

Purpose

This chapter points out and tries to describe the (missing) link between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social ontology/ontology of the firm. The author believes that this gap in the literature hinders the progress of CSR theoretical/empirical understanding and effectiveness; therefore, the following question is addressed: is a social theory-focused approach to the ontology of the firm relevant to CSR studies? While currently many disciplines are seeking to clarify CSR theory and practice, the role of social ontology has relatively been under-explored despite its foundational importance.

Design/methodology/approach

This chapter provides rationales for identifying a set of interrelated themes to be included in future research projects. A literature review is carried out, and further analysis and desk research can be drawn from the key notions identified.

Findings

This viewpoint conceptual chapter suggests that social ontology can be an important subject of inquiry in order to bridge the existing gaps in CSR/Business Ethics studies. A possible conceptual agreement for a realist and social theory-focused approach to CSR is illustrated.

Research limitations/implications

While encouraging more effort and commitment in this emerging and fascinating field, this chapter concentrates on some selected key aspects such as the meaning of corporate moral agency and the ontological status of social collectives (e.g. firms).

Practical implications

This chapter lays the ground for future pilot exploratory research, and could be instructive for the construction of specific research methodologies/theoretical tools seeking to explore not so much the ways CSR is defined (indeed, there seems to be a broad consensus about it) but rather how CSR is socially constructed, implemented and carried out.

Social implications

This chapter can potentially help grow knowledge about the nexus between CSR, social ontology and the underlying metaphysical issues, thus facilitating a comprehensive inter-/multi-/pluri-disciplinary understanding and giving a contribution to the relevant ongoing scientific and practical debates.

Originality/value

This chapter, while uncovering and exploring the aforementioned novel connections, can enrich the study of CSR with respect to the current mainstream approaches, for example, stakeholder management and engagement, social accounting and reporting, socially responsible investment (SRI).

Index

Pages 343-358
Content available
Cover of The Critical State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe
DOI
10.1108/S2043-9059201812
Publication date
2018-07-19
Book series
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78756-149-6
eISBN
978-1-78756-149-6
Book series ISSN
2043-9059