As climate change, social inequities, and other critical issues grow ever more urgent, many companies have built dedicated departments focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). But while this is an important first step, the authors’ new research suggests that organizations with the most mature CSR programs are often actually those with the smallest CSR departments. Based on an in-depth analysis of several Swiss firms as well as a review of prior research on CSR implementation, they identify a three-phase process through which many companies progress as their CSR operations advance from high-level vision to on-the-ground impact: A nascent stage in which the CSR department centralizes and coalesces, an intermediate stage in which it decentralizes and orchestrates, and a final stage in which it retreats and consults. Through this process, resources shift from the central CSR team out into functional units, meaning that the size and budget of the CSR department is often a poor indicator of the maturity of its CSR execution. To paint an accurate picture of a company’s performance — and to identify opportunities for improvement — the authors ultimately suggest that it’s essential to recognize these nuances and calibrate expectations and evaluations accordingly.

The full article can be read in Harvard Business Review.

In this commentary, we engage with the study by Carney, El Ghoul, Guedhami, Lu and Wang, titled ‘‘Political corporate social responsibility: The role of deliberative capacity.’’ Their study provides empirical support for earlier claims that deliberative capacity – the capacity of political institutions to enable diverse stakeholders to collectively assemble and voice their opinions – is an important building block to understanding the prominence or lack thereof of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a country. In so doing, Carney and co-authors contribute to the so-called ‘‘Political CSR’’ or PCSR literature. Yet, their study carries two important shortcomings that can be addressed to bring PCSR research forward in an IB context. First, they ignore a fundamental tenet of the PCSR literature, namely the existence of global governance gaps requiring private businesses to actively engage in political activity. Second, and related to the first, their model and associated variables are misspecified, with independent and dependent variables that are at least partially overlapping. Departing from these shortcomings, we attempt to engage constructively with their work in the interest of advancing the conversation in IB about private sector involvement in democratic will formation to achieve social and environmental responsibility.

Research on the implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has revealed the critical role of CSR departments vis-à-vis functional departments. While both CSR and functional departments influence CSR implementation, the question of how they work together remains underexamined. We address this question by mobilizing and merging two complementary yet separate perspectives on CSR implementation: “coordination” and “enactment.” Building on a comparative case study involving seven large Swiss financial institutions that have established CSR departments and implemented CSR to varying extents, we inductively derive six courses of actions conducing to CSR implementation, involving both coordination and enactment. We distinguish between four courses of actions in the CSR departments (centralizing, coalescing, orchestrating, and consulting) and two courses of actions in the functional departments (decentralizing and tailoring). As our data suggest that coordination and enactment work in tandem, we capture these insights in a model of CSR implementation as coordinated enactment. Our research contributes to the literature by explaining how CSR departments and functional departments enact and simultaneously coordinate CSR at a particular implementation stage, thus illuminating how and why the variance in CSR implementation occurs.

Risi, D., & Wickert, C., & Ramus, T. (2022). Coordinated enactment: How organizational departments work together to implement CSR. Business & Society


Integrated reporting has widely been promoted as the next evolutionary step in corporate disclosure, which would soon replace traditional reporting practices. Embedded in a zeitgeist that favors sustainability, this outlook would suggest high integrated reporting adoption rates among reporting organizations. Our analysis of integrated reporting in Germany from 2008 to 2019 shows, however, that organizations approached integrated reporting with a wait-and-see mentality. This approach cannot be described adequately by the existing conceptualizations of (partial) practice adoption. We therefore develop the notion of wait-and-see-ism, defined as the deliberate and potentially long-lasting postponement of a decision to adopt a practice while its further development is monitored silently. We see limited, though continuous, efforts to prepare for the prospect of adopting the practice of integrated reporting quickly at a later stage. Wait-and-see-ism expands on prior work on partial adoption by emphasizing its temporal dimension. This adds an important yet undertheorized option that organizations can employ to respond to ambiguous institutional demands, thus explaining the stalling of promising management practices.

Endenich C, Hahn R, Reimsbach D, Wickert C (2022). Wait-and-see-ism as partial adoption of management practices: The rise and stall of integrated reporting. Strategic Organization. doi:10.1177/14761270221078605

In  their  recent  essay,  Gond  and  Moser  (2019)  have  proposed  that  micro-CSR  research has the potential to “matter” and transform business practices as it engages closely with how individuals in companies work with and experience corporate social responsibility  (CSR).  But  can  micro-CSR  research  in  its  current  form  realize  this  transformative  potential  and  serve  social  justice?  Adopting  an  intellectual  activist  position, we argue that the transformative potential of micro-CSR is severely limited by its predominant focus on CSR as defined, presented, and promoted by companies themselves, thereby serving to sustain the hegemony of the business case for CSR, promoting  narrow  interests  and  maintaining  managerial  control  over  corporate  responsibilities. We propose that micro-CSR researchers broaden the scope of their research to cultivate the potential of alternative ideas, voices, and activities found in organizational life. In so doing we lay out a research agenda that embraces employee activism,  listens  to  alternative  voices,  and  unfolds  confrontational,  subversive,  and  covert  activities.  In  the  hope  of  inspiring  other  micro-CSR  researchers  to  explore these unconventional paths, we also offer suggestions as to how we can pursue them through empirical research.

Girschik, V., Svystunova, L., Lysova, E. I. (2022). Transforming corporate social responsibilities: Toward an intellectual activist research agenda for micro-CSR research. Human relations, 75(1) 3 –32.

This paper proposes a theory-based process model for the generation, articulation, sharing and application of managerial heuristics, from their origin as unspoken insight, to proverbialization, to formal or informal sharing, and to their adoption as optional guidelines or policy. A conceptual paper is built using systematic and non-systematic review of literature. This paper employs a three-step approach to propose a process model for the emergence of managerial heuristics. Step one uses a systematic review of empirical studies on heuristics in order to map extant research on four key criteria and to obtain, by flicking through this sample in a moving-pictures style, the static stages of the process; step two adapts a knowledge management framework to yield the dynamic aspect; step three assembles these findings into a graphical process model and uses insights from literature to enrich its description and to synthesize four propositions. The paper provides insights into how heuristics originate from experienced managers confronted with negative situations and are firstly expressed as an inequality with a threshold. Further articulation is done by proverbialization, refining and adapting. Sharing is done either in an informal way, through socialization, or in a formal way, through regular meetings. Soft adoption as guidelines is based on expert authority, while hard adoption as policy is based on hierarchical authority or on collective authority.

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