Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 111, Issue 4, pp 439–460 | Cite as

CSR-Based Political Legitimacy Strategy: Managing the State by Doing Good in China and Russia

  • Meng ZhaoEmail author


The state is a key driver of corporate social responsibility across developed and developing countries. But the existing research provides comparatively little knowledge about: (1) how companies strategically manage the relationship with the state through corporate social responsibility (CSR); (2) how this strategy takes shape under the influence of political institutions. Understanding these questions captures a realistic picture of how a company applies CSR to interacting with the state, particularly in countries where the state relationship is critical to the business operation. This article draws on political legitimacy as a useful concept to directly address both strategic and politically embedded natures of CSR. This work extends the currently under-specified political implication of the strategic view of CSR and provides fresh insights to the political legitimacy research by specifying a typology of CSR-based legitimacy strategies and its contextual variation. China and Russia are the focal settings. A qualitative analysis of business–state interaction cases is done using a database that contains the majority of CSR reports published in Chinese and Russian as the end of 2009. As a result, this paper identifies four qualitatively different types of CSR-based political legitimacy strategies and reveals how the adoption of these strategies differs across Chinese companies, Russian companies, and multinational corporations.


Business–state interaction China Corporate social responsibility Multinational corporation Political embeddedness Political legitimacy Russia 



Corporate social responsibility


Global reporting initiative


Multinational corporation


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development


Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs


State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council


State-owned enterprise


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Market StudiesMoscow School of Management SKOLKOVOMoscow RegionRussia

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