Tensions of Corporate Social Responsibility

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    I engaged with the top management team (TMT) and employees of American
    Cafes Corporation as an action/intervention researcher in the 20 months
    immediately following the TMT’s decision to formalize the company’s corporate
    social responsibility (CSR) activities. This led to the establishment of a “CSR
    bureaucracy” at American Cafes. I explore why the TMT decided to formalize its
    CSR activities and how the establishment of a CSR bureaucracy affected
    activities. I employ the Weberian distinction between formal and substantive
    rational to identify and describe tensions that become apparent when CSR agenda
    is considered, which brings with it a multiplicity of substantively rational ends for
    which the corporation could pursue. I show the CSR bureaucracy can create a
    space for reflection in which the multiplicity of substantively rational ends can be
    considered, negotiated, and selected, and formally rational tools like key
    performance indicators (KPIs) can be developed and employed in service of the
    selected substantively rational ends. I show how these KPIs can serve to highlight
    tensions between substantively rational ends. As such, I argue the CSR
    bureaucracy can create a space for reflection within the corporation. But I also
    show tensions can arise from the establishment of the CSR bureaucracy itself.
    This suggests the CSR bureaucracy itself resides in a tension.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    EventThe 2012 Society for Business Ethics Annual Meeting - Boston, United States
    Duration: 3 Aug 20125 Aug 2012


    ConferenceThe 2012 Society for Business Ethics Annual Meeting
    CountryUnited States
    Internet address

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