From CSR to CSV to…what?

“Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) stands for the social role or responsibility that a corporation has towards society that it operates within” [1]

A particular area of interest I explored during this module, before our field trip to Montreux, is the one relating to Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR). A concept considerably exciting and appealing, deeply inspirational and meaningful, and quite controversial as it involves diverse interpretations and frameworks.

In one of our workshops, we were assigned in groups of five and were required to read some different papers regarding CSR, make some notes on them and then relate and compare them all together creating thus a CSR “jigsaw”. In this blog, I am going to present my group’s findings and try to demonstrate how the various arguments placed on table were interrelated.

Under this activity the papers examined were:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility: The centrepiece of competing and complementary frameworks, by Archie B. Carroll [2]
  • Critical Theory and Corporate Social Responsibility: Can/ Should We Get Beyond Cynical Reasoning? , by Timothy R. Kuhn and Stanley Deetz [3]
  • Creating Shared Value, by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer [4]
  • Contesting the Value of “Creating Shared Value”, by Andrew Crane, Guido Palazzo, Laura J. Spence and Dirk Matten [5]

The starting point of our discussion was derived from the first reading stated above, which involves a narrative structure of the robust past and upbeat future of CSR. It was stimulated in the 1950s but emerged in its modern formulation during the 1960s after some social movements. The following decade CSR is advanced as the government intervenes into the foreground giving rise to Corporate Social Responsiveness. During 1980-1990’s Corporate Social Performance is developed as business is the driving force in social responsibility and another three trends have been thriving since then: globalization, institutionalization and reconciliation. From then onwards CSR/ Business Ethics/ Corporate Citizenship/ Sustainability have been grown and today form an integral part of every company’s agenda with the belief that they will continue to be modified in the future as well.

CSR is then examined from the angle of critical theory as per the second reading above. The main challenges here include the managerial influence on organisational and external values, the use of CSR as a mask for businesses, the capitalist nature of the idea under the environmental umbrella and the power asymmetry of stakeholders.

Regarding the rest two papers, they disclose the ideal, on the one hand, aspect of Creating Shared Value (CSV) and the critical view on the other hand. According to Porter and Kramer, CSV should supersede CSR as the latter is deemed obsolete – it lacks properties integral to the other – while the former is able to deal with economic and social benefit, competition and profit maximization targets. In the contrast, CSV is disadvantaged due to its shortage of originality and ignorance of the inherent tensions to responsible business activity, and furthermore because it is naïve about business compliance and it relies on a shallow conception of the corporation’s role in society.

On the whole, this is the way we completed our CSR “jigsaw” and concluded to a collaborative approach that both governments and corporations together can bring the change!

 Maria Zani, May 2018



[1] Stowell, A. (2018). Workshop 4: Corporate Social Responsibility, OWT232 Management and Sustainability – World Business Council for Sustainable Development module, 2019, Lancaster University, Charles Carter Building, 27/03/2018

[2] Carroll, A. (2015). Corporate Social Responsibility: The centrepiece of competing and complementary frameworks, Organizational Dynamics (2015) 44, 87-96.

[3] Kuhn, T. and Deetz, S. (2009). Critical Theory and Corporate Social Responsibility: Can/ Should We Get Beyond Cynical Reasoning? , Oxford Handbooks Online, pp. 1-17.

[4] Porter, E. and Kramer, M. (2011). Creating Shared Value, Harvard Business Review, pp. 1-17.

[5] Crane, A., Palazzo, G., Spence, L. and Matten, D. (2014). Contesting the Value of “Creating Shared Value”, California Management Review, vol.56, no. 2, pp. 130-153.


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