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new paper "Strategic CSR: a panacea for profit and altruism?"

NEW PAPER PUBLISHED (2017-06-21): Misum´s Enrico Fontana´s paper "Strategic CSR: a panacea for profit and altruism? An empirical study among executives in the Bangladeshi RMG supply chain" is published in European Business Review.

The article is open access, available here.

1) What do you make of the results?
This is a study at the micro-level of analysis on a small sample of top executives in Bangladesh, a developing country. I believe the most interesting result that I found, inter alia, was about the conceptualization of CSR and, in particular, the difficulty shown by interviewees in understanding CSR as a shared value proposition and in strategic terms. On one hand, a few executives perceived it normatively (CSR Moral dimension), acting in support of their workers and community but implicitly and without looking for any benefit. On the other hand, other interviewees were trying to implement CSR strategically (CSR performance dimension) and were explicit in admitting that they were not doing that for the community, but rather to improve their own financial bottom line.

2) Why do you call it CSR as panacea? Do you use the word panacea in a negative or positive sense?
The word panacea comes from Greek and it is something that can solve all problems. I use panacea in a sarcastic way. The shared value proposition and strategic CSR are often used as concepts that include a perfect amalgamation of instrumental and normative perspectives, namely, a win-win situation that benefits both company and workers. Whether or not strategic CSR is necessarily wrong, findings evidently show that there is more to it.

3) What does it mean for stakeholder working with the SDGs?
I define CSR in terms of voluntary benefits for workers and their community, scrutinized empirically in the Bangladeshi Apparel Supply Chain where most problems hide. Due to that, understanding what drives suppliers’ CSR might undoubtedly achieve an array of social objectives which are basically part of the SDG agenda. Unveiling the micro and cognitive viewpoint of decision-makers on CSR should be the basics to explain what they think about it, why they act or rather not act about it.

4) Who do you think should be interested in your findings?
I believe all scholars and practitioners who have an interest in understanding how CSR is perceived in developing countries and in particular in supply chains.

5) What would you like to do next to follow up?
I just conducted another round of interviews in Bangladesh and I am working on a paper that can extend these findings. This looks at the effect of collective behavior of local suppliers vis-á-vis CSR in Bangladeshi industrial clusters. I believe this can help explain why executives in industrial clusters engage or not in CSR, apart from they way they conceive it. Cognition and actual behavior are in fact unaligned, and understanding the normative pressures in the suppliers’ network might explain what drives this dichotomy.

Contact Enrico Fontana here.

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