Trade Unions and CSR: A European Research Agenda
Journal of Public Affairs, Vol. 6, Nos. 3-4, pp. 256-268, 2006
Posted: 30 Oct 2010
Date Written: November 1, 2006
There is much evidence that Corporate Social Responsibility has increasingly become embraced by industry in Europe. The transfer to Europe of what essentially is a concept embedded in American capitalism, however, results in some interesting contextualizations. One of the most interesting of these is the impact of CSR on one of the most powerful actors to determine the social responsibility of corporations in the European context, namely trade unions and their institutional infrastructure. In many cases unions perceive CSR as a threat, as it transfers yet more power and discretion to managers. By contrast, trade unions in countries with a strong corporatist tradition claim to be themselves drivers of CSR. An altogether different situation exists in Eastern Europe, where unions lack the legitimacy and influence to shape the emerging CSR agenda. Given such a spread of positions, what similarities and differences can be detected in union approaches to CSR? Which specific aspects of CSR are supported by European unions? How have European unions adapted their strategies in response to CSR? This article employs an institutional comparison perspective of selected European countries to explore the role unions play in CSR activities. It maps out the conceptual territory and provides one of the first overviews of the topic.
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