CSR: Definition and Research Background

CSRCSR being a broad concept the definition of the term is divided into two groups by Mohr (1996, p.48): a) multidimensional definitions, delineating major responsibilities of companies, and b) definitions based on the societal marketing concept.

A comprehensive definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is offered by McWilliams and Siegel (2001, p.117) as situations in which a company goes beyond compliance and engages in social causes which is beyond of company’s interests.

Alternative definition proposed is “the policy and practice of a corporation’s social involvement over and beyond its legal obligations for the benefit of the society at large” (Enderle and Tavis, 1998)

Another definition of CSR is proposed by Hill et al (2003, p. 340)  as “the obligation of the firm to use its resources in ways to benefit society, through committed participation as a member of society at large and improving welfare of society at large, independent of direct gains of the company” (Hill et al, 2003, p.340). Also Hill et al (2003, p.340) divide social responsibility into four forms: economic, legal, ethical, and humanitarian.

Enterpreneurs are defined by Spence (2007, p.539), as “short-range revenue maximising, hard-nosed persons” (Spence, 2007, p.539)

Lepoute and Haine (2006, p.259) list the definition of responsible entrepreneur based on “Responsible Entrepreneurship” publication of European commission as the one who a) treats customers, business partners and competitors with fairness and honesty, b) cares about well-being, health and safety of employees, and c) motivates the workforce by offering them training and development opportunities, d) behaves like a good citizen in the local community, and e) respects natural resources

Corporate Social Responsibility is not new. It has been practiced in forms of corporate philanthropy or donating funds to charities and dates back to the late 1800′ s (Sethi, 1997) According to Bronn and Vrioni (2001, p.208) today’s concept of CSR has been developed mainly during 1960′s and started with the knowledge of responsibilities of corporations extended over their legal obligations.

Bronn and Vrioni ( 2001, p.208) also distinguish between two approaches to CSR: 1) the free market approach, which is also referred to as classical economic theory (Friedman, 1970), and socially oriented approach (Wood, 1991; Smith 1994)

Hill et al (2003, p.339) give the credit to Milton Friedman for the development of the corporate social responsibility concept. According to Wood (1991) when corporate social responsibility theorists advocated the idea of ethics being incorporated within strategic goals it seemed impractical at that time, however, the time has changed and currently CSR is seen as an essential component of a business practice. Lantos (2001) argues that for the last half a century businesses have been judged not only by their economic performances, but also by the extent of their social contributions.



  • Bronn, PS & Vrioni, AB, 2001, “Corporate Social Responsibility and a Cause-Related Marketiing: An Overview,” International Journal of Advertising Vol. 20, pp.207-222
  • Enderle, G &Tavis, AL, 1998, “A Balanced Concept of the Firm and the Measurement of its long-term Planning and Performance”, Journal of Business Ethics, Issue: 17 (11)
  • Friedman, M, 1970, “The social responsibility of business is to increase its profit’, The New York Times Magazine, (13September)
  • Hill, R.P., Stephens, D.  & Smith, I.2003.  Corporate Social responsibility: An examination of individual firm behaviour.  Business and Society Review.  108(3):339-364
  • Lepoutre, J. &Heene, A. 2006. Investigating the impact of firm size on small business social responsibility: A critical review. Journal of Business ethics. 67:257-273
  • McWilliams, A & Siegel, D, 2001, “Corporate Social Responsibility: a theory of the firm perspective”, Academy of Management Review, Issue:26
  • Mohr, LA, 1996, “Corporate Social Responsibility: Competitive Disadvantage or Advantage?”, Proceedings of the 1996 Marketing and Public Policy Conference, Edited by Hill, RP & Taylor, CR, American Marketing Association
  • Seithi, SP, 1977, “Advocacy Advertising and Large Corporations, Lexicon Books
  • Spence, L. J.1999. Does Size Matter? The State of the Art in Small Business Ethics_, Business Ethics: A European Review 8(3), 163–174.
  • Ward, H & Smith, C, 2006, “Corporate Social responsibility at Crossroads: Futures for CSR in the UK to 2015”, International Institute for Environment and Development

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