Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 99, Supplement 1, pp 73–91

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



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 


  1. Altman, Y. (1997). The high-potentials fast-flying achiever: Themes from the English language literature 1976–1995. Career Development International, 2(7), 324–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, P. E. (1990). Creating cultural change. Management Services, 34(7), 6–10.Google Scholar
  3. Bateson, C. D., Collins, E., & Powell, A. A. (2006). Doing business after the fall: The virtual model of hypocrisy. Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 321–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beatty, C. A., & Gordon, J. R. M. (1991). Preaching the gospel: The evangelists of new-technology. California Management Review, 33(3), 73–94.Google Scholar
  5. Beverland, M. B., & Lindgreen, A. (2010). What makes a good case study? A positivist review of qualitative case research published in industrial marketing management, 1971–2006. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(1), 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burke, L. A. (1997). Developing high-potential employees in the new business reality. Business Horizons, 40(2), 18–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 4(4), 497–505.Google Scholar
  8. Castka, P., Balzarova, M. A., Bamber, C. J., & Sharp, J. M. (2004). How can SMEs effectively implement the CSR agenda? A UK case study perspective. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 11(3), 140–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cox, C. J., & Cooper, C. L. (1988). High flyers: An anatomy of managerial success. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Cramer, J., Jonker, J., & van der Heijden, A. (2004). Making sense of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 55(2), 215–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cramer, J., van der Heijden, A., & Jonker, J. (2006). Corporate social responsibility: Making sense through thinking and acting. Business Ethics: A European Review, 15(4), 380–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Derr, C. B., Jones, C., & Toomey, E. L. (1988). Managing high-potential employees: Current practices in thirty-three U.S. corporations. Human Resource Management, 27(3), 273–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Doppelt, B. (2003). Leading change toward sustainability: A change management guide for business, government and civil society. Sheffield: Greenleaf Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Dunphy, D. C., Griffiths, A., & Benn, S. (2003). Organizational change for corporate sustainability: A guide for leaders and change agents of the future. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.Google Scholar
  16. Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: Mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 51–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gritzmacher, K. J. (1989). Staying competitive through strategic management of fast-track employees. National Productivity Review, 8(4), 421–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hemmingway, C. A. (2005). Personal values as a catalyst for corporate social entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Ethics, 60, 233–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jick, T. D. (1979). Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods: Triangulation in action. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4), 602–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jones, G., & Spooner, K. (2006). Coaching high achievers. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 58(1), 40–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jonker, J., & de Witte, M. (2006). Challenge of organising and implementing corporate social responsibility. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Joyner, B. E., & Payne, D. (2002). Evolution and implementation: A study of values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 41(4), 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kellerman, A. (2006). The S-factor: A responsible guide to sustainable leadership. Amsterdam: Business Contact.Google Scholar
  25. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Lindgreen, A. (2008). Managing market relationships: Methodological and empirical insights. Aldershot: Gower Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Lindgreen, A., Swaen, V., & Johnston, W. J. (2009). Corporate social responsibility: An empirical investigation of U.S. organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(Suppl. 2), 303–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lyon, D. (2004). How can you help organizations change to meet the corporate responsibility agenda? Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Management, 11(3), 133–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maak, T. (2007). Responsible leadership, stakeholder engagement, and the emergence of social capital. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 329–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maak, T. (2008). Undivided corporate responsibility: Towards a theory of corporate integrity. Journal of Business Ethics, 82, 353–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Maak, T., & Pless, N. M. (2006). Responsible leadership. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Maignan, I. (1997). Antecedents and Benefits of Corporate Citizenship: A Comparison of U.S. and French Businesses, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Memphis at Tampa, TN.Google Scholar
  33. Maignan, I., Ferrell, O. C., & Ferrell, L. (2005). A stakeholder model for implementing social responsibility in marketing. European Journal of Marketing, 39(9/10), 956–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maon, F., Lindgreen, A., & Swaen, V. (2009). Designing and implementing corporate social responsibility: An integrative framework grounded in theory and practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(Suppl. 1), 71–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maon, F., Lindgreen, A., & Swaen, V. (2010). Organizational stages and cultural phases: A critical review and a consolidative model of corporate social responsibility development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), 20–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matthyssens, P., & Vandenbempt, K. (2003). Cognition-in-context: Reorienting research in business market strategy. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 18(6/7), 595–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Meyer, J. W., & Rowen, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 38, 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Paine, L. S. (1994). Managing for organizational integrity. Harvard Business Review, (March–April), 106–117.Google Scholar
  39. Pedersen, E. R., & Neergaard, P. (2008). From periphery to centre: How CSR is integrated in mainstream performance management frameworks. Measuring Business Excellence, 12(10), 4–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pepermans, R., Vloeberghs, D., & Perkisas, B. (2002). High potential identification policies: An empirical study among Belgian companies. Journal of Management Development, 22(8), 660–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Placet, M., Anderson, R., & Fowler, K. M. (2005). Strategies for sustainability. Research Technology Management, 48(5), 32–41.Google Scholar
  42. Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). Strategy and society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 84(12), 78–94.Google Scholar
  43. Randel, A. E. (2002). The maintenance of an organization’s socially responsible practice: A cross-level framework. Business and Society, 41(1), 61–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rausch, E., Sherman, H., & Washbush, J. B. (2001). Defining and assessing competencies for competency-based, outcome-focused management development. Journal of Management Development, 21(3), 184–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sociaal Economische Raad (SER). (2000). De Winst van Waarden, Den Haag.Google Scholar
  46. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Thomas, A. S., & Simerly, R. L. (1994). The chief executive officer and corporate social performance: An interdisciplinary examination. Journal of Business Ethics, 13, 959–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Marrewijk, M., & Werre, M. (2003). Multiple levels of corporate sustainability. Journal of Business Ethics, 44, 107–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vos, J. F. J. (2003). Corporate social responsibility and the identification of stakeholders. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 10(3), 141–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Waldman, D. A., & Siegal, D. (2008). Defining the socially responsible leader. The Leadership Quarterly, 19, 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weaver, G. R., Trevino, L. K., & Cochran, P. L. (1999). Integrated and decoupled corporate social performance: Management commitments, external pressures, and corporate ethics practices. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 539–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Werre, M. (2003). Implementing corporate social responsibility: The Chiquita case. Journal of Business Ethics, 44(2/3), 247–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MarketingCardiff Business School, University of CardiffCardiffUK
  2. 2.BEM Bordeaux Management SchoolTalenceFrance
  3. 3.Louvain School of Management, Université catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  4. 4.Hull University Business SchoolYorkshireUK
  5. 5.Eindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.IESEG School of ManagementLilleFrance

Personalised recommendations