Philanthropy as a Business: An Analysis of Social Responsibility as a Business Strategy

Jonas Ginge Andersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This Master’s thesis investigates the emerge of a new discursive development surrounding social responsibility across corporations, through UN’s Social Develoment Goals (SDG’s), and how it effects the way companies operate. The thesis combines theoretical perspectives from Ernesto Laclau and Niklas Luhmann for the purpose of showing how the meaning of social responsibility is changing, and the real-life consequences of this change
The first part of the analysis is based on three commercial projects, that, in different ways, try to develop concrete methods and practices to implement the SDG’s into corporate business models. The analysis showed, how the SDG’s, across the three projects, was viewed as a new business opportunity for companies, and that it presented a way to implement social responsibility into companies’ strategic approaches in order to develop new products and business models. This meant, that social responsibility, in the new discursive development, was perceived as a new fundamental condition, not only due to reputational and branding implications, but also as a new central point for business’ approach to business development and strategy.
The second part of the analysis was based on two company cases, which showed, that the discursive meaning of social responsibility was, not only a semantic exercise, but that working with social responsibility and the SDG’s actually have real life impact on the way companies operate. The two cases, however, showed that companies’ implementation of the SDG’s into their strategic approach meant a slightly different result in the two. In the case of Danish coffee producer, Peter Larsen Kaffe, the implementation of the SDG’s meant, that the company redefined its understanding of the core product, which resulted in the development of new products and business models, which was not perceived as possible before. In the case of Danish Architect and strategy firm, Gehl, the implementation of the SDG’s meant a new way of understanding the purpose of the company. In this case, the SDG’s was used as a new way of structuring the company in navigating between which projects to accept and with to decline.
Finally, the thesis discuss the new strategic meaning of social responsibility compared to the critic of the classical CSR presented by Wayne Visser.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages106
SupervisorsAnders Sevelsted