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 2: A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability Impact of CSR

Jon Birger Skjærseth and Jørgen Wettestad


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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