Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 89, Supplement 3, pp 285–301 | Cite as

(Re)discovering the Social Responsibility of Business in Germany

  • Ariane Berthoin Antal
  • Maria Oppen
  • André Sobczak


The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a relatively recent addition to the agenda in Germany, although the country has a long history of companies practicing social responsibilities. The expectations of society had remained stable for many years, encapsulated in laws, societal norms, and industrial relations agreements. But the past decade has seen significant changes in Germany, challenging established ways of treating the role of business in society. This contribution reviews and illustrates the development of diverse forms of social responsibility in German corporations and analyzes how actors in business and society can build on traditional strengths to find new institutional arrangements for sharing tasks and responsibilities in the interests of achieving a better balance between societal, economic, and environmental needs.


corporate social responsibility business ethics Germany global responsibility intentional experimentation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ales, E., S. Engblom, T. Jaspers, S. Laulom, S. Sciarra, A. Sobczak and F. Valdés Dal-Ré: 2006, ‘Transnational Collective Bargaining: Past, Present and Future’, Report to the European Commission, Brussels.Google Scholar
  2. Argandoña, A.: 2004, ‘Economic ethics and institutional change’, Journal of Business Ethics 53(1-2), 191-201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Backhaus-Maul, H., C. Biedermann, S. Nährlich and J. Poterauer: 2008, ‘Corporate Citizenship in Deutschland. Die überraschende Konjunktur einer verspäteten Debatte’ [Corporate Citizenship in Germany. The Surprising Rise of a Late Debate], in H. Backhaus-Maul, C. Biedermann, S. Nährlich and J. Poterauer (eds.), Corporate Citizenship in Deutschland. Bilanz und Perspektiven [Corporate Citizenship in Germany: State of the Art and Perspectives for the Future] (Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden), pp. 13–42.Google Scholar
  4. Bendell, J.: 2005, ‘In Whose Name? The Accountability of Corporate Social Responsibility’ Development in Practice 15(3-4), 362-374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bertelsmann Stiftung: 2006, Partner Staat? CSR-Politik in Europa [The State as a Partner? European CSR Policy] (Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh).Google Scholar
  6. Berthoin Antal, A., M. Dierkes, K. MacMillan and L. Marz: 2002, ‘Corporate Social Reporting Revisited’, Journal of General Management 28(2), 22-42.Google Scholar
  7. Berthoin Antal, A., M. Dierkes and M. Oppen: 2007, ‘Zur Zukunft der Wirtschaft in der Gesellschaft: sozial verantwortliche Unternehmensführung als Experimentierfeld’ [The Future of the Economy in Society: Corporate Social Responsibility as an Experimental Ground], in J. Kocka (ed.), Zukunftsfähigkeit Deutschlands – Sozialwissenschaftliche Essays. WZB-Jahrbuch 2006 (edition sigma, Berlin), pp. 267–290.Google Scholar
  8. Berthoin Antal, A. and A. Sobczak: 2004, ‘Beyond CSR: Organizational Learning for Global Responsibility’, Journal of General Management 30(2), 77-98.Google Scholar
  9. Berthoin Antal, A. and A. Sobczak: 2005, ‘Von Sozialbilanzen zu Nachhaltigkeitsberichten: Wie Deutschland wieder zum Vorreiter wird’ [From Corporate Social Accounting to Sustainability Reports: How Germany Can Regain the Lead], Personalführung 6, 74–85.Google Scholar
  10. Bispinck, R.: 2003, ‘Das deutsche Tarifsystem in Zeiten der Krise – Streit um Flächentarif, Differenzierung und Mindeststandards’ [The German Tariff System in Times of Crises – Disputes Over Tariffs, Differentiation and Minimum Standards], WSI-Mitteilungen 56(7), 395–404.Google Scholar
  11. Blowfield, M.: 2005, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility – The Failing Discipline and Why it Matters for International Relations’, International Relations 19(2), 173-191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bundesregierung: 2002, Stellungnahme zum Grünbuch der Kommission “Europäische Rahmenbedingungen für die soziale Verantwortung der Unternehmen” KOM (2001), 366 ENDG [The Position of the Federal Republic of Germany on the CSR-Greenbook of the EU Commission], Accessed Aug 2006.
  13. Campbell, J.L.: 2006, ‘Institutional Analysis and the Paradox of Corporate Social Responsibility’, American Behavioral Scientist 49(7), 925-938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. CCCD (Centrum für Corporate Citizenship in Deutschland): 2007, Corporate Citizenship. Gesellschaftliches Engagement von Unternehmen in Deutschland und im transatlantischen Vergleich mit den USA. Ergebnisse einer Unternehmensbefragung des CCCD [Corporate Citizenship. Results of a Corporate Survey Comparing Corporate Citizenship in Germany and the USA] (CCCD, Berlin).Google Scholar
  15. Clarke, M. and J. Stewart: 1997, ‘Handling the Wicked Issues – A Challenge for Government’, INLOGOV Discussion Paper, Institute of Local Government Studies, Birmingham.Google Scholar
  16. Crook, C.: 2005, ‘The good company. A sceptical look at corporate social responsibility’, The Economist, January 22, 3-18.Google Scholar
  17. Dierkes, M.: 1974, Die Sozialbilanz – Ein gesellschaftsbezogenes Informations- und Rechnungssystem [The Social Account – A Societal Information and Accounting System] (Herder & Herder, Frankfurt/Main).Google Scholar
  18. Dierkes, M.: 1984, ‘Gesellschaftsbezogene Berichterstattung. Was lehren uns die Experimente der letzten 10 Jahre?’ [Societal Reporting: What Do the Experiments of the Past 10 Years Teach Us?], Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft 54(12), 1210–1235.Google Scholar
  19. Dierkes, M. and A. Berthoin Antal: 1986, ‘Whither Corporate Social Reporting: Is it Time to Legislate?’, California Management Review 28(3), 106-121.Google Scholar
  20. Dierkes, M. and K. Zimmermann: 1991, ‘Unternehmensethik: Mehr Schein als Sein?’ [Business Ethics: How Much Substance?], in M. Dierkes and K. Zimmermann (eds.), Ethik und Geschäft. Dimensionen und Grenzen Unternehmerischer Verantwortung [Ethics and Business. Dimensions and Limits of Corporate Responsibility] (Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden), pp. 15–69.Google Scholar
  21. Doane, D.: 2005, ‘The Myth of CSR’, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall, 23–29.Google Scholar
  22. Elkington, J.: 1998, Cannibals With Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of the 21st Century Business, (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island).Google Scholar
  23. Enquetekommission “Zukunft des bürgerschaftlichen Engagements”: 2002, Bericht. Bürgerschaftliches Engagement: auf dem Weg in eine zukunftsfähige Bürgergesellschaft [The Future of Citizen-Action Endeavours] (Leske + &!nbsp;Budrich, Opladen).Google Scholar
  24. European Commission: 2001, Green Paper onPromoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility” (European Commission, Brussels).Google Scholar
  25. European Commission: 2006, Implementing the partnership for growth and jobs: making Europe a pole of excellence on corporate social responsibility, (European Commission, Brussels).Google Scholar
  26. European Commission: 2008, Mapping of Transnational Texts Negotiated at Corporate Level (European Commission, Brussels), EMPL F2 EP/bp 2008 (D) 14511.Google Scholar
  27. Gebauer, J. and U. Westermann: 2007, Nachhaltigkeitsberichterstattung in Deutschland. Ergebnisse und Trends im Ranking 2007 [Sustainability Reporting in Gemany. Results and Trends in the 2007 Ranking] (Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung und Future e.V. Berlin, Hannover), Accessed Dec 2008.
  28. Habisch, A. and M. Wegner: 2005, ‘Germany: Overcoming the Heritage of Corporatism’, In: A. Habisch, J. Jonker, M. Wegner and R. Schmidpeter (eds.), Corporate Social Responsibility Across Europe. (Springer Verlag, Berlin), 111-123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Häußermann, H., M. Kronauer and W. Siebel (eds.): 2004, An den Rändern der Städte. Armut und Ausgrenzung [Urban Peripheries: Poverty and Social Exclusion] (edition Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Main).Google Scholar
  30. Keller, B. and H. Seifert: 2006, ‘Atypische Beschäftigungsverhältnisse: Flexibilität, soziale Sicherheit und Prekarität’ [Atypical Employment Conditions: Flexibility, Social Security and Instability], WSI-Mitteilungen 59(5), 235.Google Scholar
  31. Kröher, M. O. R.: 2005, ‘Good Company Ranking: Tue Gutes und profitiere davon’ [Good Company Ranking: Do Good Deeds and Profit from Them], Manager Magazin 2, 80–96.Google Scholar
  32. Loew, T., K. Ankele, S. Braun and J. Clausen: 2004, ‘Bedeutung der internationalen CSR-Diskussion für Nachhaltigkeit und die sich daraus ergebenden Anforderungen an Unternehmen mit Fokus Berichterstattung’ [The Significance of the International CSR Discussion for Sustainability and the Resulting Reporting Demands on Companies], Final Report. Berlin and Münster.Google Scholar
  33. Loew, T., J. Clausen and U. Westermann: 2005, Nachhaltigkeitsberichterstattung in Deutschland. Ergebnisse und Trends im Ranking 2005 [Sustainability Reporting in Germany. Results and Trends in the 2005 Ranking] (Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung und Future e.V. Berlin, Hannover), Accessed Dec 2008.
  34. Maaß, F. and R. Clemens: 2002, ‘Corporate Citizenship. Das Unternehmen als “guter Bürger”’ [Corporate Citizenship: the Corporation as a “Good Citizen”], Schriften zur Mittelstandsforschung Nr. 94 NF (Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden).Google Scholar
  35. Margolis, J.D. and J.P. Walsh: 2003, ‘Misery Loves Companies: Rethinking Social Initiatives by Business’, Administrative Science Quarterly 48(2), 268-305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matten, D. and J. Moon: 2008, ‘‘Implicit’ and ‘Explicit’ CSR: A conceptual framework for a comparative understanding of corporate social responsibility’, Academy of Management Review 33(2), 404-424.Google Scholar
  37. Michael, B.: 2003, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in International Development: An Overview and Critique’, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management 10(3), 115-128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mintzberg, H.: 1983, Power In and Around Organizations, (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ).Google Scholar
  39. Nerlich, M. and V. Kirchberg: 2001, ‘Social Sponsoring und Social-Investment – Unternehmerische Förderung für soziale Projekte im Quartier’ [Social Sponsoring and Social-Investment – Corporate Sponsorship of Socially Beneficial Neighbourhood Projects], in M. Alisch (ed.), Stadtteilmanagement. Voraussetzungen und Chancen für die soziale Stadt (Leske + Budrich, Opladen), pp. 251–274.Google Scholar
  40. OECD Watch: 2005, Five Years on. A Review of the OECD Guidelines and National Contact Points (OCDE Watch, Amsterdam).Google Scholar
  41. Oppen, M.: 2005, ‘Local Governance und bürgerschaftliches Engagement von Unternehmen’ [Local Governance and Corporate Citizenship], in H. Bauer, P. Biwald and E. Dearing (eds.), Public Governance. Öffentliche Aufgaben gemeinsam erfüllen und effektiv steuern [Public Governance: Jointly Fulfilling and Effectively Steering Public Responsibilities] (Neuer Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Vienna & Graz), pp. 342–361.Google Scholar
  42. Oppen, M., D. Sack and A. Wegener: 2005, ‘German Public Private Partnerships in Personal Social Services: New Directions in a Corporatist Environment’, in G. Hodge and C. Greve (eds.), The Challenge of Public–Private-Partnerships. Learning from International Experience (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA), pp. 269–289.Google Scholar
  43. Orlitzky, M., F.L. Schmidt and Rynes: 2003, ‘Corporate Social and Financial Performance: A Meta-Analysis’, Organization Studies 24(3), 403-441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palazzo, B.: 2002, ‘US-American and German Business Ethics: An Intercultural Comparison’, Journal of Business Ethics, 41(3), 195-216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Preston, L.E., F. Rey and M. Dierkes: 1978, ‘Comparing Corporate Social Performance. Germany, France, Canada, and the U.S.’, California Management Review 20(4), 40-49.Google Scholar
  46. Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung: 2006, Unternehmerische Verantwortung in einer globalisierten Welt – Ein deutsches Profil der Corporate Social Responsibility. Empfehlungen des Rates für Nachhaltige Entwicklung [Corporate Responsibility in a Globalised World – A German Profile of Corporate Social Responsibility. Recommendations of the German Council for Sustainable Development] (Berlin), Accessed Dec 2008.
  47. Schmierl, K.: 2003, ‘Wird das deutsche Modell der Arbeitsregulierung die Umschichtungen in der Arbeitsgesellschaft überleben?’ [Will the German Work Regulation Model Survive the Shifts in Labour Force?], WSI-Mitteilungen 56(11), 651.Google Scholar
  48. Schratzenstaller, M.: 2004, ‘Aktuelle Entwicklungen der Unternehmensbesteuerung im europäischen Kontext’ [Current Developments in European Corporate Taxation Laws], WSI-Mitteilungen 57(12), 669.Google Scholar
  49. Segal, J. P.: 2003, ‘Unternehmenskulturen in Deutschland und Frankreich: Globalisierung unter angelsächsischen Vorzeichen’ [Corporate Cultures in Germany and France: Globalization Under Anglo-Saxon Influences], in Deutsch-Französisches Institut (ed.), Frankreich Jahrbuch 2003 (VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden), pp. 119–136.Google Scholar
  50. Siebenhuener, B., M. Arnold, E. Hoffmann, T. Behrens, S, Heerwart and T. Beschorner: 2006, Organisationales Lernen und Nachhaltigkeit [Organizational Learning and Sustainability] (Metropolis, Marburg).Google Scholar
  51. Smith, N.C.: 2003, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility: Whether or How?’. California Management Review 45(4), 52-76.Google Scholar
  52. Sobczak, A.: 2008, ‘Syndicats et responsabilité sociale des multinationales’ [Unions and the Social Responsibility of Multinationals], Gestion Revue internationale de Gestion 33(1), 18–26.Google Scholar
  53. Soltwedel, R.: 1994, ‘Normen und Institutionen – von der Sozialphilosophie zur praktischen Ethik’ [Norms and Institutions – from Social Philosophy to Practical Ethics], in Bertelsmann Stiftung, Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung and Ludwig-Erhard-Stiftung, Markt mit Moral. Das ethische Fundament der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft [Market with Morals. The Ethical Foundation of the Social Market Economy] (Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh), pp. 35–43.Google Scholar
  54. Spilotis, S.S.: 2006, ‘Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice’. In: J. Keane (ed.). Civil Society. Berlin Perspectives. (Berghahn Books, New York), 51-69.Google Scholar
  55. Task Force on Corporate Social Performance: 1979, Corporate Social Reporting in the United States and Western Europe, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  56. Tsalikis, J. and B. Seaton: 2007, ‘The International Business Ethics Index - European Union’, Journal of Business Ethics 75(3), 229-238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ulrich, P., Y. Lunau and T. Weber: 1996, Ethikmassnahmen in der Unternehmenspraxis. Zum Stand der Wahrnehmung und Institutionalisierung von Unternehmensethik in schweizerischen und deutschen Firmen. Ergebnisse einer Befragung [Ethics in Business Practice. On the State of Perceptions and Institutionalization of Business Ethics in Swiss and German Companies. Results of a Survey] (Institut für Wirtschaftsethik of the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland).Google Scholar
  58. Vogel, D.: 2005, The Market for Virtue. The Potential and Limits of Corporate Social Responsibility (Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C.).Google Scholar
  59. Waddock, S.: 2004, ‘Parallel Universes: Companies, Academics, and the Progress of Corporate Citizenship”, Business and Society Review 109(1), 5-42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wartick, S., and D.J. Wood: 1998, International Business and Society (Blackwell Business, Malden, MA). Google Scholar
  61. Wendt, P. U.: 2000, ‘Unternehmen und Jugendarbeit – als Partner in einem Boot?’ [Corporations and Youth Work – As Partners in the Same Boat?], in P. U. Wendtm, M. Perik, W. Schmidt and U. Neumann (eds.), Managementkonzepte in der modernen Jugendarbeit (Schüren, Marburg), pp. 137–141.Google Scholar
  62. Wood, D.: 1991, ‘Corporate Social Performance Revisited: Toward a Paradigm for Social Issues in Management’, Academy of Management Review 16(4), 691-718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zadek, S.: 2004, ‘On Civil Governance’, Development 47(3), 20-28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ariane Berthoin Antal
    • 1
  • Maria Oppen
    • 1
  • André Sobczak
    • 2
  1. 1.Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für SozialforschungBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Audencia School of ManagementNantes Cedex 3France

Personalised recommendations