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 14: CSR Effects Across Four Issue Areas: A Synthesis of the Case Studies

Franziska Wolff


Franziska Wolff INTRODUCTION 14.1 In this chapter we synthesize the previous case studies and highlight major similarities and differences. All case studies had the same goal: to take stock and explain sustainability effects (output, outcome and impact) resulting from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in specific issue areas and sectors. In doing so, the authors discussed propositions developed by Viganò et al. in Chapter 3. The case studies tackled their common goal with slightly different approaches and structures in order to adapt to their specific contexts. For instance, the study by Boasson and Wettestad focuses the research question by analysing the outcomes and impact resulting from adoption of four specific CSR instruments, rather than from CSR output more generally. As a consequence, the term ‘CSR outcome’ is also used in a narrower sense.1 Some case studies made slight alterations with regard to the explanatory factors and hypotheses. Nevertheless, there is a good basis for comparison across the issue areas. In the following we shall show that the outcomes and impact resulting from CSR output were more often low or medium rather than high. The factors that most strongly influenced the adoption of CSR instruments – as crucial elements of output – were strategic considerations, corporate cultures and civil society demand. When it comes to choosing one specific instrument over another, legitimacy of an instrument in the business sector and its political support were decisive. Looking at the changes in corporate practices resulting from voluntary instruments and from CSR output more generally, no clear...

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