Research into integration of CSR strategies of companies and the role of top management leadership: Are companies walking the talk?

Thordis Katla Bjartmarz

Student thesis: Master thesis


Paul Romer, a Stanford economist said “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste” and although this sentence was not said about the issue of sustainability it does reflect it in the way that if societies and organizations do not change their mindset and attitude towards this issue, it will become a crisis in the near future. The aim of this thesis is to analyse if companies are fully integrating their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) into their business or if they are mere “cosmetic” strategies. In order to understand companies’ situation and work in CSR a threefold analysis was conducted, each part being a relevant piece of the research question puzzle. The context of four case companies’ (Novo Nordisk, Lundbeck, Danske Bank and Nordea Bank) was the foundation of the research. All four companies have increased their focus on CSR and sustainability and all claim that it is built into the “DNA’s” of the companies. With that in mind, the first part of the thesis aimed at analysing organizational reforms on the structure and values/mission/vision statements of the companies. By understanding if a certain level of reform had taken place and if that reform was in any way related to the CSR agenda of the company, the foundation for the second part of the research was set in place. The second part of the thesis aimed at understanding if the case companies showed any sign of using integration strategies in order to align their CSR agenda to the core elements of the companies, their identities and values, or if no such work had been put into practice. The findings from the second part demonstrated a low level of integration from the case companies, all except one, which proves a mismatch between the companies’ statement that CSR is in their “DNA” and the current situation of the companies. Third part of the analysis was to understand the role of leadership in the integration process, if there is any, and what CEOs of companies should bear in mind if they aspire to drive CSR strategies effectively and fully integrated into their companies’ core elements. The main conclusions in this thesis are that despite strong focus companies have on the issue of CSR, they have not fully integrated the strategies into their system, the organizational leadership does not seem to “lead by example” in this issue and the business performance is put into question. Companies seem to understand the need to be more socially responsible and more environmentally friendly but they seem to be unwilling to take the change of integrating these aspects into their business and potentially lose their financial stability in the long run.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages92