Putting the S Back in Corporate Social Responsibility: a Multi-Level Theory of Social Change in Organizations

University of Illinois College of Business Working Paper No. 04-0107

Academy of Management Review, Forthcoming

68 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2004  

Ruth V. Aguilera

Northeastern University - Department of International Business and Strategy

Deborah Rupp

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - School of Labor & Employment Relations; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Psychology

Cynthia A. Williams

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Jyoti Ganapathi

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Psychology

Date Written: July 2004

Abstract

This paper provides a multi-level theoretical model to understand why business organizations are increasingly engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and thereby exhibiting the potential to exert positive social change. Our model integrates theories of micro-level organizational justice, meso-level corporate governance and macro-level varieties of capitalisms. Using a theoretical framework presented in the justice literature, we argue that organizations are pressured to engage in CSR by many different actors, each driven by instrumental, relational and moral motives. These actors are nested within four levels of analysis: individual, organizational, national and transnational. After discussing the motives affecting actors at each level and the mechanisms used at each level to exercise influence, as well as the interactions of motives within levels, we examine forces across levels to propose the complex web of factors, which both facilitate and impede social change by organizations. Ultimately, this proposed framework can be used to systematize our understanding of the complex social phenomenon of increasing CSR engagement, and to develop testable hypotheses. We conclude by highlighting some empirical questions for future research, and develop a number of managerial implications.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, corporate governance, comparative, social change, social justice

Suggested Citation

Aguilera, Ruth V. and Rupp, Deborah and Williams, Cynthia A. and Ganapathi, Jyoti, Putting the S Back in Corporate Social Responsibility: a Multi-Level Theory of Social Change in Organizations (July 2004). University of Illinois College of Business Working Paper No. 04-0107; Academy of Management Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=567842 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.567842

Ruth V. Aguilera (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - Department of International Business and Strategy ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

Deborah Rupp

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - School of Labor & Employment Relations ( email )

504 East Armory Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820-6297
United States

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Psychology ( email )

603 East Daniel
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

Cynthia A. Williams

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada
416-736-5545 (Phone)

Jyoti Ganapathi

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Psychology ( email )

603 East Daniel
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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