Rhetoric and Realities
Edited by Regine Barth and Franziska Wolff
Chapter 2: A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability Impact of CSR
Jon Birger Skjærseth and Jørgen Wettestad INTRODUCTION 2.1 If Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) wants to be recognized as a substantive and not only rhetorical exercise, there is a need to show that it indeed achieves what its proponents claim: that companies, by voluntarily adopting and integrating social and environmental concerns into their business operations, add to social and environmental improvement and hence to sustainability. But what activities ‘count’ as CSR in the first place? How can we determine the sustainability impact of CSR? And how do we establish causal relationships to make sure that the improved environmental performance of a company, which it may claim to result from its beyond compliance efforts, is indeed caused by the corporation taking on specific environmental responsibility – and not merely, for instance, by closing an uneconomic site? The purpose of this chapter is to tackle these questions. We shall present key analytical challenges related to CSR impact assessment and hence introduce the approach which is guiding the empirical studies presented in this book. We are not the first to suggest a framework for CSR impact assessment (see, for example, Annandale et al. 2004; Figge and Hahn 2004; Kolk and Mauser 2002). Our approach is in many ways in line with dominant trends within management literature, such as working with a model distinguishing stages in the process and including both internal processes and external influencing factors (as further elaborated in Chapter 3). The specific contribution of this approach lies, firstly, in a systematic...
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