Critical perspectives on CSR and development: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to know

Critical perspectives on CSR and development: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to know

A critical analysis of corporate responsibility in the developing world

This document contributes to the debate on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the developing world by outlining what the authors consider to be a new agenda for critical research on CSR in the developing world.

The authors argue that a critical investigation of the potential and limitations of CSR initiatives in developing countries. is needed. There exists at present a rather one-sided view of CSR that emphasises profit-making, win-win situations and consensus outcomes in multi-stakeholder arrangements. This ignores more sensitive questions around the actual  impacts of CSR initiatives, the roles of power, class and gender in mediating such  interventions, and the need to go beyond ‘one size fits all’ approaches towards  a contextualized understanding of what CSR can and does mean for poor and  marginalized groups in the global South. Furthermore accepting uncritically that more CSR can solve complex  problems associated with poverty in the global South ignores the possibility that  CSR may do more harm than good.

Suggestions for a new and more critical research agenda include: 

  • there is not much comparative data on the impact of CSR initiatives across regions or across sectors
  • CSR researchers and practitioners need to pay more careful attention to developing impact assessment methodologies that are people-centred and use alternative indicators of people’s well-being to address existing power imbalances in the CSR debate
  • researchers and practitioners should pay attention to issues such as who is recognised or overlooked in CSR interventions, which issues are addressed or not touched upon, what is measured (compliance or impact), and what works in one place and not others.