Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe
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Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe

Rhetoric and Realities

Edited by Regine Barth and Franziska Wolff

The acid test of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is simply this: does it lead to positive impacts on society and the environment or is it just rhetoric? And if it does lead to positive impacts, how can these be enhanced? This timely book tackles this cutting-edge challenge by presenting empirical findings from a range of surveys and in-depth case studies. These build on a new methodological and theoretical framework for assessing and explaining the sustainability impact of CSR.
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Chapter 1: Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Impact: Opening up the Arena

Regine Barth and Franziska Wolff

Extract

1 Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability impact: opening up the arena Regine Barth and Franziska Wolff INTRODUCTION 1.1 In the past years, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained much attention, both academic and political. While the idea that companies contribute to societal welfare beyond their legal obligations has a longer tradition in the Anglo-Saxon countries and especially in the US, it is less practiced in continental Europe. There, many social and environmental responsibilities of corporations are defined legally which are voluntary elsewhere. In the context of the sustainability debate, the CSR concept has become more prevalent globally: the enormous challenge of ‘satisf[ying] the needs of the present generation without compromising the chance for future generations to satisfy theirs’ (Brundtland Commission 1987) cannot be dealt with by governments alone. It requires all possible contributions by all societal players. Against this backdrop, the acid test of CSR is the degree to which companies’ voluntary social and environmental efforts are in fact effective in contributing to sustainable development. This is the subject of the book at hand: What sustainability impact is achieved through CSR? Is it rhetoric or reality? Do companies that acknowledge social and environmental responsibility sufficiently change their operations and daily practices? And do these changes in corporate practice lead to substantive social and environmental benefits outside the company? To what extent do voluntary business activities hence contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals set by policy makers? These are the questions that we have discussed for...

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