Spar Nord - A Proper Bank: How to Differentiate Through an Integrated CSR Strategy in a Homogenous Banking Sector

Anne-Kathrine Røhl Buus & Francesca Mega

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this dissertation is to present an exploratory study on strategy change, CSR implementation and related challenges. The case study, Spar Nord, finds itself at the beginning of the implementation of the CSR agenda and has already foreseen and encountered several challenges, which are common to other organizations as well. We ultimately reflect on some of the critical factors that could help ease the CSR strategy implementation for the case company.
The methodological approach is based on a mixed methods/triangulation approach. This means that data is collected through interviews and a questionnaire -combining both qualitative and quantitative data. Through the interviews, information was gathered about Spar Nord’s respective business model and strategy, as well as the new CSR initiatives and activities. Furthermore, the interviews were used to reach an understanding of top management’s perception towards the new strategy change and CSR in general, as well as gain insights about Spar Nord’s core resources and capabilities.
Additionally, the questionnaire served as a tool to assess and evaluate the status of the implementation and to gain insights about the employees’ perceptions and attitudes towards CSR and the new strategy. Specific attention in our analysis has been given to middle managers and generational traits. Moreover, secondary data such as company reports and theoretical models have been utilized to support the thesis.
The findings show that the new strategy represents a starting point from which CSR will be a core part of the company’s operations and main strategy, both from a legal compliance and concrete business point of view. Top management is aware of potential challenges; mostly related to the decentralized organizational structure and stakeholders’ interest in the CSR agenda. Even though most respondents seem to appreciate Spar Nord’s strong CSR commitment, some respondents indicated concerns about the relevance of the new strategy; mistrust towards the new strategy implementation; and resistance to change.
Originality/value of our dissertation can be found in the evaluation of a business case at the early stages of CSR implementation. Thus, this dissertation can be used as inspiration for organizations that encounter similar dilemmas and issues related to strategy change, CSR implementation etc. We believe there is a considerable scope for a larger scale study on organizations moving their first concrete steps towards corporate responsibility.
Conclusion. It is difficult to differentiate within a homogeneous sector such as the banking industry. CSR in itself might not represent a source of Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) when it comes to sustainable products since banks mostly offer similar services at similar prices. However, Spar Nord can differentiate from competitors by increasing its focus on CSR initiatives that are already a core asset or focal point in the bank’s business. Moreover, there is evidence suggesting that decentralization, employees, leadership and communication play a critical role with regards to strategy implementation, specifically when it comes to CSR.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages116