Reflections on the 2018 Decade Award: The Meaning and Dynamics of Corporate Social Responsibility

Dirk Matten, Jeremy Moon

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We reflect on our 2008 article, "'Implicit' and 'Explicit' CSR: A Conceptual Framework for a Comparative Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility," first recalling its origins. We contextualize this reflection piece with a stylized interpretation of CSR "then" (the turn of the twenty-first century) and "now" (2019). We then focus on two themes: CSR's meaning and its dynamics. Regarding the meaning of CSR, we indicate the advantages of our capacious CSR definition and elaborate on the underlying theorization of our CSR framework regarding corporations' need for legitimacy with their core stakeholders, societies they operate in, and regulators they are subject to. We propose that the configuration of these legitimacy relationships informs the nature and balance of implicit and explicit CSR. Turning to CSR dynamics, we build on research on the hybridization of implicit and explicit CSR and explore two underlying phenomena—explicitization and implicitization of CSR. We conceptualize explicitization as the process by which norms and rules associated with implicit CSR are adopted in explicit CSR policies, practices, and strategies. We conceptualize implicitization of CSR as the process by which norms and rules of business responsibility are informed by what were hitherto explicit CSR policies, practices, and strategies of corporations, and are built into general obligations of business.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Context
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Dynamics
  • Explicitization
  • Implicitization
  • Legitimacy

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