From Social Responsibility to Social Impact: A Framework and Research Agenda
40 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020 Last revised: 17 Apr 2023
Date Written: April 16, 2023
While corporate social responsibility (CSR) has received increasing attention in the management literature, the focus of most prior work has been on the financial implications of CSR activities for firms, rather than on their consequences for social welfare. We contend that this relative neglect stems in part from the lack of a conceptual framework to evaluate social impact and offer such a framework in this study. Specifically, we identify four dimensions on which the social impact of an activity may be evaluated: substantiveness, meaning it delivers meaningful benefits to those it claims to serve; unequivocality, meaning these benefits are not offset by harmful actions by the firm elsewhere; inclusiveness, meaning those that do not benefit from the firm’s actions are not left worse off; and comparative efficiency, meaning the same activity could not be carried out more effectively or efficiently under a different organizational arrangement. We link each of these dimensions to existing concepts in strategy and organizations research, while also suggesting best practices related to each dimension that firms may follow to ensure that their actions are unambiguously maximizing social welfare. By developing a rigorous conceptual framework to assess social impact systematically, our study offers both a research agenda for future scholars, and a useful tool for managers seeking to design more effective CSR initiatives.
Keywords: social impact, social responsibility, strategic CSR, market for social goods
JEL Classification: M14, D6
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation