Article: a PhD thesis.
Corporate responsibility in the postnational constellation : a multiple-case study
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
In my thesis I present the findings of a multiple-case study on the CSR approach of three multinational companies, applying Basu and Palazzo's (2008) CSR-character as a process model of sensemaking, Suchman's (1995) framework on legitimation strategies, and Habermas (1996) concept of deliberative democracy. The theoretical framework is based on the assumption of a postnational constellation (Habermas, 2001) which sends multinational companies onto a process of sensemaking (Weick, 1995) with regards to their responsibilities in a globalizing world. The major reason is that mainstream CSR-concepts are based on the assumption of a liberal market economy embedded in a nation state that do not fit the changing conditions for legitimation of corporate behavior in a globalizing world. For the purpose of this study, I primarily looked at two research questions: (i) How can the CSR approach of a multinational corporation be systematized empirically? (ii) What is the impact of the changing conditions in the postnational constellation on the CSR approach of the studied multinational corporations? For the analysis, I adopted a holistic approach (Patton, 1980), combining elements of a deductive and inductive theory building methodology (Eisenhardt, 1989b; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Van de Ven, 1992) and rigorous qualitative data analysis. Primary data was collected through 90 semi-structured interviews in two rounds with executives and managers in three multinational companies and their respective stakeholders. Raw data originating from interview tapes, field notes, and contact sheets was processed, stored, and managed using the software program QSR NVIVO 7. In the analysis, I applied qualitative methods to strengthen the interpretative part as well as quantitative methods to identify dominating dimensions and patterns. I found three different coping behaviors that provide insights into the corporate mindset. The results suggest that multinational corporations increasingly turn towards relational approaches of CSR to achieve moral legitimacy in formalized dialogical exchanges with their stakeholders since legitimacy can no longer be derived only from a national framework. I also looked at the degree to which they have reacted to the postnational constellation by the assumption of former state duties and the underlying reasoning. The findings indicate that CSR approaches become increasingly comprehensive through integrating political strategies that reflect the growing (self-) perception of multinational companies as political actors. Based on the results, I developed a model which relates the different dimensions of corporate responsibility to the discussion on deliberative democracy, global governance and social innovation to provide guidance for multinational companies in a postnational world. With my thesis, I contribute to management research by (i) delivering a comprehensive critique of the mainstream CSR-literature and (ii) filling the gap of thorough qualitative research on CSR in a globalizing world using the CSR-character as an empirical device, and (iii) to organizational studies by further advancing a deliberative view of the firm proposed by Scherer and Palazzo (2008).
Corporate Responsibility, Stakeholder Theory, Deliberative Democracy, Legitimation, Global Governance
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