Multinationals and Corporate Social Responsibility

Politeia, Vol. 26, No. 98, pp. 138-152, 2010

16 Pages Posted: 28 May 2010 Last revised: 22 Sep 2010

See all articles by Ans Kolk

Ans Kolk

University of Amsterdam Business School

Date Written: May 27, 2010


This paper aims to shed some more light on the current debate related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), specifically considering multinational enterprises (MNEs) and the complexities they face when dealing with international issues and a range of stakeholders. It discusses notions of CSR in the context of wider debates, including the question for whom and for what the firm exists, how responsibilities can or should be managed and by whom, and what room there is for managerial discretion. Particular attention is paid to cross-cultural differences, exploring the existing variety in ethical and societal norms relevant to MNEs: those originating from international agreements, those that are part of a so-called ‘market morality’ and those applicable in home and host countries. Although these norms may overlap, they can diverge as well, leaving ample room for managerial discretion in a ‘moral free space’. The paper also explores recent trends, particularly the increasing importance of emerging economies such as China, which suggests that the picture is becoming even more complex, pointing at clear challenges for research and practice.

Keywords: multinationals, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, shareholders, stakeholders, local-global, emerging economies, business ethics, regulation, norms, China

JEL Classification: D21, F23, G38, L2, M1, M14

Suggested Citation

Kolk, Ans, Multinationals and Corporate Social Responsibility (May 27, 2010). Politeia, Vol. 26, No. 98, pp. 138-152, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Ans Kolk (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam Business School ( email )

Plantage Muidergracht 12
Amsterdam, 1018 TV
+31 20 525 4289 (Phone)
+31 20 525 5281 (Fax)


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