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 3: A Framework for Explaining the Sustainability Impact of CSR

Federica Viganò, Franziska Wolff and Daniele Nicolai


Federica Viganò, Franziska Wolff and Daniele Nicolai 3.1 INTRODUCTION The previous chapter discussed how to assess the sustainability impact of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Here, we want to turn to explaining such impact. What are the causes for high sustainability impact through CSR or, in other words, what are CSR success factors? And what factors prevent the achievement of substantial social and environmental benefits? Before developing a framework for explaining the sustainability effects of CSR, we place our approach in relation with the current CSR discourse (Section 2). In Section 3 we break down the basic question: ‘What factors promote the achievement of sustainability impact through CSR?’ into more specific, better researchable sub-questions. We apply the three categories of CSR effects as elaborated in Chapter 2, that is, CSR ‘output’, ‘outcome’ and ‘impact’. Drawing both on institutional and management literature, Section 4 then sets out the factors by which we shall explain the achievement of CSR impacts. These factors partly occur within companies and partly exist in the companies’ environment. They include corporate strategy, organization and culture, on the one hand, and the business environment, civil society and the political-institutional setting, on the other hand. The design of specific CSR instruments is regarded as a further factor that may explain the sustainability impact of CSR. In Section 5 we set out a number of propositions that relate these explanatory factors to the research questions about CSR impact. Section 6 sums up the main insights and draws some conclusions. The...

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