The significance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for business, society and governance is now undisputed. It is even discussed at length by its traditional critics, ranging from neo-liberal economists to anti-corporate campaigners and scholars. Yet, it is also a contested concept, not only by its critics, but also by those who claim to work for it. Our aim is to clarify understanding of CSR and the nature of and reasons for the contestation.
This textbook joins a growing number of texts and other resources on CSR. It is designed for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, although no prerequisite knowledge is assumed. But, what you are holding in your hands (or viewing on your hard-drive) differs in many ways from other textbooks on CSR and such related concepts as business and society and corporate sustainability. This is for five main reasons: its conceptual ambition; its focus on issues; its critical awareness; its integration of expertise; and its attention to how you learn from it, or pedagogy.
First, this book is unique in bringing together three indispensable conceptual perspectives on CSR: strategy, governance (including regulation) and communication. Like most other CSR textbooks, we address strategic approaches to CSR in our book (Part I). However, we bring new perspectives on these, including critical and developing country viewpoints. We also examine the role of governance in CSR because so much of CSR now pertains to socio-economic governance and the political nature of corporations’ responsibilities. This book helps students to explore how CSR itself is regulated (Part II), and the role that corporations play in new governance arrangements (e.g. multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) or public–private partnerships – Part IV). As much of CSR is about communicating firms’ social and environmental responsibilities, we invite students to think about how communication is formative of CSR actions (Part III). We explore the significance of CSR communication in different contexts, such as crises, transparency and reputation management.
Second, while other CSR texts are structured around stakeholders or management issues, they often give rather selective attention to the issues that CSR practitioners are concerned with.