CSR in Developing Countries: Towards a Development-Oriented Approach

Editors: Dima Jamali, Charlotte Karam & Michael Blowfield

Since the turn of the millennium, we have witnessed a surge of interest in the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) coupled with an explosion in the number of articles, books, and chapters written on the topic. CSR is generally used as an umbrella term to describe the complex and multi-faceted relationships between business and society and to account for the economic, social and environmental impacts of business activity. Within the literature emerging from developed economies, CSR has been examined along three main tracks, namely as a function of profit maximizing behavior (McWilliams & Siegel, 2002), institutional pressures (Campbell, 2007), or managerial cognition (Muller & Kolk, 2009).

In this respect, scholars have delved into various aspects and applications of CSR including the use of CSR for legitimation, the relationship between CSR and financial performance and analyses of institutional pressures affecting CSR expressions. While this research has significantly advanced our understanding of CSR and its antecedents and implications, the bulk of this research has been concentrated in developed economies and in European and North American countries more specifically.

There has been a burgeoning parallel interest in understanding the dynamics and peculiarities of CSR in developing economies (Blowfield & Frynas, 2005; Newell & Frynas, 2007; Idemudia, 2011). Authors have contested the immediate transferability of frameworks and conclusions drawn in the developed world to developing countries and have argued for the need for a more nuanced analysis of how CSR manifests itself in emerging markets (Egri & Ralston, 2008; Kolk & Lenfant, 2010; Kolk & Van Tulder, 2010). The context-dependence of CSR has indeed been re-emphasized in recent years and the fact that developing countries present peculiar institutional constellations that affect CSR manifestations is now well-recognized (e.g. Jamali & Sidani, 2012; Visser, 2008). Scholars have suggested for example that philanthropy constitutes the main expression of CSR in the developing world whether because of prevailing cultural norms and expectations (Jamali &Neville, 2011; Gao, 2009), religious expectations (Jamali, Sidani, & El-Asmar, 2009a; Jamali, Zanhour, & Keshishian, 2009b) or the difficult and pressing socio-economic needs which put pressure on firms to embrace philanthropic programs and interventions (Frynas, 2005).

Other institutional gaps that affect the expressions of CSR in developing countries, include the contracted and retracted role of governments in developing countries (Frynas, 2005; Amaeshi et al., 2006) which often creates environments that are ripe for abuse (Khavul & Bruton, 2013; Newenham-Kahindi, 2011) and the weakness of drivers pertaining to business associations and nongovernmental organizations (Jamali & Neville, 2011). Ite (2005) identifies corruption, poor governance and the lack of accountability to be the main hindrances for CSR in Nigeria, causing exacerbated poverty and unemployment. Hence while there has been some increased scholarship on CSR in developing countries, and new insights into the cultural and local specifics of CSR engagement, there is need for additional research that can inform a more nuanced and sophisticated research agenda that links to public policy and development goals in more substantive ways. In fact various authors have highlighted a core challenge pertaining to how to move CSR beyond philanthropy, rhetoric, legitimization, imagery, and public relations in the developing world to substantive engagement that addresses engrained social problems (e.g. poverty, education, unemployment) and that has developmental impact and implications (Barkemeyer, 2009; Karam & Jamali, 2013).

Hence, this book volume is intended to highlight the current discussion on CSR in developing countries, through the voices of authors, scholars and practitioners working in these contexts. The editors welcome contributions pertaining to various aspects of CSR engagement in developing countries, with a particular focus on the question of the promise and potential of CSR to serve as an effective development tool.

The question of how the business sector can serve as an effective agent of change in the developing world is important and timely, particularly as the CSR paradigm continues to be anchored in voluntary self-regulatory conceptions (Barmekeyer, 2009; Jamali, 2010). In this respect, Blowfield and Dolan (forthcoming) begin to chart the way by giving insights into how the business sector has moved from a reactive non-intentional role in promoting development to a more proactive and engaged stance and specify three important criteria for an engaged developmental orientation pertaining to investing one’s capital, giving primacy to the poor and their issues, and accountability to address poverty and marginalization. In summary we invite contributions to this book volume seeking to address two primary questions. The first question is to what extent and in what ways do CSR agenda challenges and initiatives differ in developing economies, and how to account for these variations?

The second equally important question is how CSR can be mobilized more effectively to serve as a development tool, in the sense of aligning more systematically with meeting development goals that are worthy and substantive. We believe that exploring CSR in developing country contexts is important because these are the contexts where CSR and developmental needs are most acute (Jamali & Mirshak, 2007; Visser, 2008) and because developing countries often present a distinctive set of CSR agenda challenges which may have qualitative differences from those faced in the developed world (Visser, 2008). We also believe that in our current time, CSR needs to be examined more systematically not only in terms of constraints but also in terms of developmental potential in addressing relevant societal concerns and local development needs. We invite a range of nuanced contributions that are able to move beyond the ideological fault lines of CSR is good versus bad (Dolan & Rajak, 2011), to focus on the CSR peculiarities, ambivalences and tensions of CSR in developing countries and addressing the CSR-development nexus or interface more specifically.

Some questions that can guide contributors as they reflect on possible topics include:

  1. What are the possible lines of inquiry linking CSR to development? What are the important questions needed to be asked to develop fruitful future research directions on CSR in developing countries?
  2. What are the specificities of CSR in developing countries? How to account for the variation?
  3. What does it mean for business to be a genuine development agent?
  4. How can CSR be leveraged, or mobilized, or tailored for greater developmental impact in different developing contexts?
  5. What is meant by inclusive growth or inclusive capitalism and how can companies channel some of their innovative ingenuity to worthwhile development needs and projects in the developing world?
  6. What are the questions that CSR researchers should be asking to contribute to a locally appropriate CSR discourse while simultaneously remaining relevant to the global CSR dialogue?Similarly, what questions should practitioners be asking to make a local contribution and to lead the development-oriented CSR forward on the global stage?
  7. Where can CSR research in developing countries feed back into CSR research and practice in developed countries?
  8. What are the practical and methodological challenges of conducting quantitative and qualitative CSR research within and across developing economies and how can these serve as opportunities for developing innovative and stimulating new avenues for CSR research in general?
  9. What are the practical challenges of implementing development-oriented CSR initiatives within and across developing economies and how can these serve as opportunities for developing innovative and stimulating new avenues for responsible engagement?

A brief (one page) proposal or outline of your book chapter in terms of intended structure and main arguments and objectives is due by end of November 2013; we will endeavor to get back to you in relation to acceptance by end December 2013 and the full chapter contribution will be due on May 30, 2014.

In terms of formatting guidelines, Greenleaf formatting guidelines should be closely followed. These include the following (we should check with John): - Harvard referencing should be used throughout - The entire manuscript is double-spaced - Tables and diagrams are sent separately from the text


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