CEO and CSR: business leaders and corporate social responsibility.
Russell, Ellina Osseichuk
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The increasing commercial and social pressure for business leaders to act in a socially responsible manner is undermined by the lack of standards in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) legislation, auditing, indexing, and reporting. Moreover, CSR research is fragmentary and often missing empirical corroboration. It lacks synthesis, uses CSR concepts and terms ambiguously, and is inconsistent in the identification of CSR practices, its formulation and institutionalisation. This study addresses these gaps and discontinuities by first synthesising a range of theories into an explanatory framework. This framework provides the pre-understanding for the collection and analysis of qualitative data drawn from the UK oil and gas industry. The findings highlight the heterogeneous and dynamic nature of CSR operationalisation. The analysis emphasises the dependence of CSR strategy formulation on business leaders’ personal beliefs and biases. These beliefs are tempered by balancing shareholders’ interests and stakeholders’ expectations, and are affected by the global (in the case of corporations) or the local (in the case of corporate subsidiaries and small-medium size enterprises) contexts. These appear to be the main factors influencing leaders’ CSR decisions. The findings also demonstrate a number of challenges that business leaders face when reconciling personal, organisational, industry, global, and societal values and ethical beliefs; and balancing traditional organisational goals, such as profit maximisation, with increased stakeholder empowerment in granting social legitimacy. In addition, the exploration of CSR institutionalisation reveals different approaches in corporate subsidiaries, which fluctuate between the CSR practices of corporate headquarters and those of SMEs. The analysis of these findings results in a proposed hybrid model of CSR Institutionalisation in the oil and gas industry, with a breakdown of identified factors affecting corporate, SMEs’, and subsidiaries’ leaders’ CSR decisions. This thesis contributes to the literature by proposing a number of concepts, including: CSR Nexus and CSR Dynamics models as conceptual syntheses of the theoretical framework; an empirically corroborated CSR Operationalisation model within the studied organisations suggesting a nonconformance with extant CSR research; an observed matrix of business leaders’ CSR Motivations highlighting their diversity in corporations, SMEs, and corporate subsidiaries. Finally, a conceptual CSR Convergence model is proposed, which outlines a comprehensive approach to CSR education and implementation. In a weak and ambiguous CSR regulation and legislation environment, this study endeavours to bridge the gap between CSR research, business organisations, and stakeholders by contributing to the enhancement of CSR understanding, education, and implementation.