[F&ES 815]

The New Corporate Social Responsibility: Public Problems, Private Solutions, and Strategic Responses

2014-2015
Credits: 3
 

 

This seminar assesses the proliferation of policy innovations aimed at promoting and encouraging “corporate social responsibility” (CSR). We define CSR broadly to include the diverse range of self- and civil regulation, voluntary instruments, private authority, and non-state market driven (NSMD) initiatives that have emerged in the last fifteen years to engage firms directly, rather than working through traditional governmental process. Examples include firm-level initiatives, industry codes, product codes, third-party certification, ethical brands and labels, and “clean” investment funds. The course reviews the growing literature on these phenomena that now exists within political science, management, economics, sociology, environmental studies, and law. Our aim is to reflect on the broad array of scholarship on emergence and institutionalization of CSR innovations questions. While the class is interested in assessing the strategic advantage that CSR might bring firms, our emphasis is on whether, and how, CSR initiatives might address enduring policy problems where traditional governmental approaches have been ineffective. The course is organized into four components. First, we review and assess the different types of CSR or “private” policy instruments vying for firm-level support and distinguish them from traditional governmental mechanisms. Second, we discuss what is meant by “effectiveness” and the different ways of measuring success. Third, we assess the assumptions behind different theoretical frameworks about what types of CSR innovations firms are more likely to support, if any, and why. Fourth, we turn to empirical evidence to assess existing theories of support, and what this means for understanding support and effectiveness of CSR. This section draws on a variety of empirical methods including guest speakers from the world of CSR, analysis of large-N analyses on support, as well as detailed historical and comparative case studies.