Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 99, Supplement 1, pp 73-91

First online:

The Role of ‘High Potentials’ in Integrating and Implementing Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Adam LindgreenAffiliated withDepartment of Marketing, Cardiff Business School, University of CardiffBEM Bordeaux Management School Email author 
  • , Valérie SwaenAffiliated withLouvain School of Management, Université catholique de LouvainIESEG School of Management Email author 
  • , David HarnessAffiliated withHull University Business School
  • , Marieke HoffmannAffiliated withEindhoven University of Technology

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The Samenleving and Bedrijf (S&B) network of Dutch organizations seeks to embed corporate social responsibility (CSR) within business practices but faces challenges with regard to how to do so across various organizational practices, processes, and policies. The integration of CSR demands cultural change driven by senior management and other change agents, who push CSR principles throughout the organization. This study examines the change processes that S&B member organizations have initiated, with a particular focus on the role of high potentials—those persons who have been selected for the fast track into senior management. Interviews with nine S&B organizations document their levels of CSR integration and implementation, the role of senior managers, and the effects of high potentials’ competencies on the realignment process. High potentials have the ability and opportunity to act as CSR change agents, but organizations’ expectations of their purposes as future senior managers prevented them from doing so. In the existing organizational cultures, leadership focused on economic success, and the CSR implementation process had just initiated. Therefore, a measure of CSR embeddedness might refer to the performance measurement and expectations of high potentials as potential CSR change agents.


Corporate social responsibility High potentials Change agents Integration Implementation Case study