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Contextualising Constructions of Corporate Social Responsibility: Social Embeddedness in Discourse and Institutional Contexts
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Social Work and Psychology, Social work. Sociologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7094-7297
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

‘Corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) and ‘socially responsible investment’ (SRI) have become predominant frameworks connecting business to society that have spread across the globe. They comprise a shared set of ideas and practices, such as those promoted in global reporting standards and by international organisations such as the UN Global Compact. Nonetheless, both are constructed and reproduced by companies in relation to context-specific social institutions, including norms and conventions shaping company engagement in social issues. Using a neo-institutionalist theoretical framework, the thesis examines constructions of social responsibility in discourse and within institutional contexts, across regions that are not often compared in the research terrain: two West European welfare states (Sweden and the UK) and two emerging African economies (South Africa and Mauritius). The purpose of the thesis is to add to the literature on CSR and SRI with a sociologically informed perspective that is comparative and connects institutional theory with social constructionism and a Foucauldian perspective on power. The thesis analyses how perceptions of CSR and SRI are constructed in relation to the social institutions that encase companies’ engagement with social issues, such as national level welfare configurations and the institution of financial investments. The main argument in this thesis is that CSR and SRI need to be seen as contextually constructed, in discourse and practice, in ways that draw the boundaries and set the conditions for company engagement with social issues.

The thesis comprises three articles. Article 1 is a content analysis of company self-reporting on CSR and the article examines how the content given to CSR relates to broader welfare configurations and as such differs in four national settings across the divide between emerging African economies and Western welfare states. Article 2 is a discourse analysis that examines interpretative repertoires occurring in company self-reporting across the same set of four countries. The interpretative repertoires are analysed as discursive practices where power intersects with the production of knowledge on CSR. Article 3 focuses on SRI and examines responsible investing as a form of institutional work that institutional investors engage in. Based on an interview study with institutional investors in Sweden, the article analyses institutional work as a process that has the effect of both institutional creation and maintenance and it connects these institutional processes to the construction of meaning on SRI. In its entirety the thesis contributes a sociological perspective on how prevailing understandings of corporate social responsibility come into being and are reproduced.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2016. , 37 p.
Series
Stockholm Studies in Sociology. New series, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 64
Keyword [en]
corporate social responsibility; CSR; institutional theory; Foucault; context; embeddedness; institutions; new institutionalism; institutional complementarity; discursive institutionalism; institutional work; responsible investment; SRI; social constructionism; discourse; power; qualitative content analysis; self-reporting; abductive approach; interpretative repertoires
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-23142ISBN: 978-91-7649-630-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-631-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-23142DiVA: diva2:1059531
Public defence
2017-01-20, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-01-02 Created: 2016-12-22 Last updated: 2017-01-02Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Content in the Context of Welfare Configurations: A Comparative Institutional Analysis of Self-Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Content in the Context of Welfare Configurations: A Comparative Institutional Analysis of Self-Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This paper connects to research on the institutional determinants of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and examines corporate CSR agendas in the context of four differing national institutional arrangements for welfare. An analysis is presented of how self-reported CSR differs in content across two Western welfare states (UK and Sweden) and two emerging economies in the Global South (South Africa and Mauritius). The paper is based on original data collected from corporate self-reporting on CSR. Differences in content given to CSR across the four country contexts are discussed in terms of institutional complementarity and similarity between CSR and welfare configurations at the national level. The findings indicate that differences in self-reported CSR agendas are particularly evident between the two established economies on the one hand, and the two emerging economies on the other. These findings are analysed in terms of companies seeking legitimacy in the context of existing provisions for welfare, or the lack thereof.

Keyword
corporate social responsibility, institutional complementarity, institutions, welfare, developing countries, embeddedness, qualitative content analysis
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-23197 (URN)
Available from: 2016-11-28 Created: 2017-01-02 Last updated: 2017-01-02Bibliographically approved
2. Discourse and power in the institutionalisation of corporate social responsibility (CSR): A comparative perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Discourse and power in the institutionalisation of corporate social responsibility (CSR): A comparative perspective
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This article examines how companies use discourse in corporate social responsibility (CSR) self-reporting to construct their engagement in social issues. Discourse is examined through the lens of ‘interpretative repertoires’ used in the reporting, which appear as recurrent habitual sets of explanations that are constitutive of CSR’s meanings. Using an innovative perspective that combines discursive institutionalism with Foucault’s notions of knowledge, power and discourse, the article examines how interpretative repertoires are used in self-reporting and how this has social consequences. The contribution to CSR research is both theoretical and empirical. Beginning with the assumption that context is an important aspect of how discourse is constructed, the empirical material includes company self-reporting from two emerging economy contexts (South Africa and Mauritius) and two advanced welfare states (Sweden and the UK). The analysis reveals the ways in which interpretative repertoires reflect how the versions of CSR are anchored in institutional contexts. How these repertoires are constructed also reveals how companies exercise power by constructing the conditions, and setting the boundaries, for company engagement in social issues.

Keyword
context, corporate social responsibility, discourse analysis, discursive institutionalism, Foucault, interpretative repertoires, power, self-reporting
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-23196 (URN)
Available from: 2016-11-28 Created: 2017-01-02 Last updated: 2017-01-02Bibliographically approved
3. The institutional work of responsible investing: Institutional creation, maintenance and meaning construction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The institutional work of responsible investing: Institutional creation, maintenance and meaning construction
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This article examines socially responsible investing (SRI) as a form of institutional work that institutional investors engage in. The lens of institutional work is applied to a qualitative interview study on how institutional investors in Sweden take part in SRI. The article shows that the practice of SRI involves both institutional creation and maintenance, through the creation of new practices as well as the maintenance of the existing institution of financial investments. As argued in the article, this dual institutional process has implications for the meanings given to SRI. By connecting institutional creation and institutional maintenance and linking them to meaning construction, this article contributes to the research on institutional work with an innovative analysis of how a concept is given meaning through the actions of institutional investors such as banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset management companies, as well as the individuals within these organisations. 

Keyword
institutional work, socially responsible investing, institutional maintenance, institutional creation, social construction, institutional investors, Sweden
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-23195 (URN)
Available from: 2016-11-28 Created: 2017-01-02 Last updated: 2017-01-02Bibliographically approved

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