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 15: CSR and Public Policy: Mutually Reinforcing for Sustainable Development?

Franziska Wolff, Maria Bohn, Irmgard Schultz and Peter Wilkinson


Franziska Wolff, Maria Bohn, Irmgard Schultz and Peter Wilkinson 15.1 INTRODUCTION How does Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) relate to and interact with public policy? How and why do policy makers ‘make use’ of CSR, and what functions can CSR develop in systems of public governance? And, importantly, can CSR contribute to achieving public policy goals on sustainability? These are the questions to be addressed in the following. We argue that public policy plays an important role for CSR. Apart from coining societal expectations for companies’ responsibility, it can stimulate and procedurally regulate CSR. Motives of policy makers for stimulating CSR differ from those for regulating CSR. A ‘retreat’ of the state, a reduction in or avoidance of further regulation of companies, is only one of these motives. Placing CSR within a debate on the transformation of the state, we develop a typology of functions that CSR can have in systems of public governance: apart from being a beyond-compliance self-regulation approach, CSR can be a means to improve compliance with command and control governance and to enhance the social and environmental steering effects of incentive-based regulation. In each of these ideal-typical cases CSR contributes to sustainability in a distinct way. Whether or not CSR actually produces sustainability impact, however, is a question to be decided empirically. Approaching this question with evidence spelled out earlier in this book, we discuss to what extent, if any, CSR activities address public policy goals on sustainable development. We find that companies’ voluntary action to a...

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