Corporate social responsibility
Legal and semi-legal frameworks supporting CSR: developments 2000-2010 and Case Studies
Doctoral thesis by Tineke Lambooy.
Published by Faculty of Law, Leiden University
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a nominal term clearly resonates with scholars and practitioners alike. As a scientific concept, however, it has often been criticized for its lack of definitional precision and poor measurement. The upshot of this analysis is that since the CSR concept adds nothing of value to existing frameworks in the field of management and organisation, such as the economizing and legitimizing perspectives, it is best to discard it altogether. Generally, criticasters have also contended that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses. From a different perspective, CSR has been criticised as being nothing more than superficial window-dressing. Along those lines, as one of the downsides, it has been asserted that CSR could become the victim of its own popularity. For example, the campaign group Friends of the Earth sees some companies’ interest in CSR as a cynical ‘PR exercise’. Hence, in their view, ‘greenwashing’ – self-styled ethical brands – could suffer a backlash from their own CSR spin. Another critical argument often disseminated is that CSR is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations. Clearly, the CSR phenomenon has attracted strong positive and negative opinions from both scientists and society. On the one hand, the author agrees with the criticisms conversed; they provide a realistic view and certainly contain an element of truth. However, as will be demonstrated throughout this study, she also agrees with the view of Porter and Kramer. If businesses were to use the same frameworks that guide their core business, CSR could be effectively incorporated into the core operations and could become a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage for business, as well as a source of social progress. As will be explained infra, the author has chosen to direct her research towards legal and semi-legal frameworks that support and guide business organisations and to examine how these frameworks interact with CSR.