Handbook of Research Methods in Corporate Social Responsibility
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Handbook of Research Methods in Corporate Social Responsibility

Edited by David Crowther and Linne Lauesen

Corporate social responsibility now touches upon most aspects of the interaction between business and society. The approaches taken to research in this area are as varied as the topics that are researched; yet this is the first book to address the whole range of methods available. The book identifies the methods available, evaluates their use and discusses the circumstances in which they might be appropriate. It also includes forward-thinking guidance from experienced academics on the future directions of research in the area.
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Chapter 15: Ethnographic research methods in CSR research: building theory out of people’s everyday life with materials, objects, practices, and symbolic constructions

Linne Marie Lauesen


Research in corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature that uses ethnographic methods based on newer studies shows that ethnographic studies are typically used to get ‘under the skin’ of corporations and their interpretation and use (and misuse) of CSR. Most companies utilize the good motives of CSR for corporate branding, to obtain legitimacy and to form their identity according to be ‘a good corporation’ in the eyes of its stakeholders. However, these ethnographic studies show how corporations are not always aligned with the intentions of CSR, because their motives are typically steered by making profits as a primer, in which CSR becomes a means to this end, which is not the purpose of CSR eventually. Ethnographic research methods are splendid for in-depth studies of one or a few organizations for explorative and discursive studies of CSR suggesting new theory development. However, it would be an interesting approach to engage ethnographic studies with quantitative approaches in order to come further up the ladder of actually imposing that the findings from case studies can be found in more than one company/business sector (the studied one) – maybe even be statistically significant. Such mixed method studies can suggest new theory grounded on in-depth findings of a few examples, and if these findings should be verified or generalizable, it needs a quantitative (statistical, significant) doubling.

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