Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Institutional Dynamics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in an Emerging Country Context: Evidence from China

  • Published:
Journal of Business Ethics Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

This study identifies unique corporate social responsibility (CSR) dimensions and develops a framework to analyze different levels of institutional dynamics in understanding CSR in China. Based on multiple case studies of 16 firms, the article examines the CSR philosophy and approach in China’s emerging market. The findings suggest that Chinese CSR understanding is largely grounded in the context of ethical and discretionary actions. This focus is mainly attributed to the dominant role of ethical leadership, governmental dependency, and cultural traditions in Chinese CSR. Moreover, the weakness or the absence of conducive social normative environment and positive peer pressure, and misalignment between CSR and organizational design further contribute to a lack of systemic and institutionalized approach to CSR in China. Our study implies that CSR is still evolving at a preliminary stage in China, and institutional infrastructure and cultural ethics are exerting abiding influence on CSR approach in the emerging economies. The article also suggests the implications for practice and policy making.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Accountability & WTO Tribune. (2009). Responsible competitiveness in China 2009: Seizing the low carbon opportunity for green development.

  • Aguilera, R. V., Rupp, D. E., Wiilams, C. A., & Ganapathi, J. (2007). Putting the S back in corporate social responsibility: A multilevel theory of social change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 22(3), 836–863.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Axinn, C. N., Blair, J. E., Heorhiadi, A., & Thach, S. V. (2004). Comparing ethical ideologies across cultures. Journal of Business Ethics, 54, 103–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baskin, J. (2006). Corporate responsibility in emerging markets. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 24(winter), 29–47.

    Google Scholar 

  • Belal, A. (2001). A study of corporate social disclosures in Bangladesh. Managerial Auditing Journal, 15(5), 274–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bernard, R. (2000). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bies, R. J., Bartunek, J. M., Fort, T. L., & Zald, M. N. (2007). Corporations as social change agents: Individual, interpersonal, institutional, and environmental dynamics. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 788–793.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, B. K., & Goldsby, M. (2009). Corporate social responsibility orientation, goals and behavior: A study of small business owners. Business & Society, 48(1), 88–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, J. L. (2007). Why would corporations behave in socially responsible ways? An institutional theory of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 948–967.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carroll, A. B. (1991). The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons, 34, 39–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carroll, A. B. (1999). Corporate social responsibility: Evolution of a definitional construct. Business and Society, 38(3), 268–295.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chapple, W., & Moon, J. (2005). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Asia: A seven-country study of CSR web site reporting. Business & Society, 44(4), 415–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen, W. (2007). Does the colour of the cat matter? The red hat strategy in China’s private enterprises. Management & Organization Review, 3, 55–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen, J. C., Patten, D. M., & Roberts, R. W. (2008). Corporate charitable contributions: A corporate social performance or legitimacy strategy? Journal of Business Ethics, 82(1), 131–144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Christmann, P., & Taylor, G. (2006). Firm self-regulation through international certifiable standards: determinants of symbolic versus substantive implementation. Journal of International Business Studies, 37, 863–878.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clarkson, M. B. E. (1995). A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 92–117.

    Google Scholar 

  • DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. The Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elkington, J. (1998). Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Stony Creek, CT: New Society Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman/Ballinger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frynas, J. G. (2006). Corporate social responsibility in emerging economies. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 24(winter), 16–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gao, Y. (2009). Corporate social performance in China: Evidence from large companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(1), 23–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: Mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53(1–2), 51–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Godfrey, P. C. (2005). The relationship between corporate philanthropy and shareholder wealth: A risk management perspective. Academy of Management Review, 30, 777–798.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gugler, P., & Shi, J. Y. J. (2009). Corporate social responsibility for developing country multinational corporations: Lost war in pertaining global competitiveness? Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 3–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guler, I., Guillén, M. F., & Macpherson, J. M. (2002). Global competition, institutions, and the diffusion of organizational practices: The international spread of ISO 9000 quality certificates. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(2), 207–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, B. (1999). Graceful merchants: A contemporary view of Chinese business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 20, 85–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jamali, D., & Mirshak, R. (2007). Corporate social responsibility (CSR): Theory and practice in a developing country context. Journal of Business Ethics, 72, 243–262.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jamali, D., Sidani, Y., & El-Asmar, K. (2009). A three country comparative analysis of managerial CSR perspectives: Insights from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 173–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, M. (1999). The institutional determinants of social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 20(2), 163–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Khanna, T., Kogan, J., & Palepu, K. (2006). Globalization and similarities in corporate governance: A cross-country analysis. Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(1), 69–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuznetsov, A., Kuznetsov, O., & Warren, R. (2009). CSR and the legitimacy of business in transitional economies: The case of Russia. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 25, 37–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindgreen, A., Swaen, V., & Campbell, T. T. (2010). Corporate social responsibility practices in developing and transitional countries: Botswana and Malawi. Journal of Business Ethics,. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0415-3.

    Google Scholar 

  • Liu, X. (1998). China’s traditional culture. Wuhan: Huazhong University of Science and Technology Publisher.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lockett, A., Moon, J., & Visser, W. (2006). Corporate social responsibility in management research: Focus, nature, salience and sources of influence. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), 115–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lu, X. (1997). Business ethics in China. Journal of Business Ethics, 16, 1509–1518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lu, X. (2009). A Chinese perspective: Business ethics in China now and in the future. Journal of Business Ethics, 86(4), 451–461.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ma, D., & Parish, W. (2006). Tocquevillian moments: Charitable contributions by Chinese private entrepreneurs. Social Forces, 85(2), 943–964.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Margolis, J. D., & Walsh, J. P. (2003). Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Scientific Quarterly, 48, 268–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marquis, C., Glynn, M. A., & Davis, G. F. (2007). Community isomorphism and corporate social action. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 925–945.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matten, D., & Moon, J. (2008). “Implicit” and “explicit” CSR: A conceptual framework for a comparative understanding of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 33(2), 404–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meyer, J. W., Boli, J., Thomas, G. M., & Ramirez, F. O. (1997). World society and the nation-state. The American Journal of Sociology, 103(1), 144–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moon, J. & Shen, X. (2010). CSR in China research: Salience, focus and nature. Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0341-4.

  • North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). Strategy society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 12, 78–92.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, W. R. (2001). Institutions and organizations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • See, G. (2009). Harmonious society and Chinese CSR: Is there really a link? Journal of Business Ethics, 89(1), 1–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shafer, W. E., Fukukawa, K., & Lee, G. M. (2007). Values and the perceived importance of ethics and social responsibility: The US versus China. Journal of Business Ethics, 70, 265–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shen, Z. Y., Liu, X. G., & Zhou, X. H. (2008). Research on state-owned enterprise reform: In view of social responsibility (in Chinese). China Industrial Economics, 9, 141–149.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snell, R. S., & Tseng, C. S. (2002). Moral atmosphere and moral influence under China’s network capitalism. Organization Studies, 23(3), 449–478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snell, R. S., & Tseng, C. S. (2003). Images of the virtuous employee in China’s transitional economy. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 20(3), 307–331.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. M. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.

    Google Scholar 

  • SynTao. (2010). A journey to discover values: A study on sustainability reporting in China.

  • Tsui, A. S., Wang, H., & Xin, K. R. (2006). Organizational culture in China: An analysis of culture dimensions and culture types. Management and Organization Review, 2(3), 345–376.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu, S., & Yang, R. (2010). Indigenous characteristics of Chinese corporate social responsibility conceptual paradigm. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 321–333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zadek, S., & Wickerham, J. (2009, March). Managerial survey on corporate responsibility: China’s CSR change makers. Fortune China.

  • Zhang, R., et al. (2010). Corporate philanthropic giving, advertising intensity and industry competition level. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 39–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zu, L., & Song, L. (2009). Determinants of managerial values on corporate social responsibility: Evidence from China. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 105–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This article is supported by the National Science Foundation of China (70732004), the Ministry of Education of China (11YJC630264). It is also supported by the Research Centre for Business English and Cross-cultural Studies and the University of International Business and Economics (10QD16). The authors would like to express sincere appreciation to Chris Marquis, two anonymous reviewers, and the participants in the Management and Organization Review Paper Development Workshop 2010 IACMR Conference for providing valuable comments and suggestions. Special thanks to Kelly Yu, Joshua Wickerham and Yi Shi for help with data collection.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Juelin Yin.

Appendix

Appendix

Semi-structured Interview Outline

  1. 1.

    Basic information of the company, including but not limited to: founding, size, line of business, market share, sales volume, export, and import,

  2. 2.

    Corporate leaders’ understanding of social responsibility: What does CSR include, from which sources do you learn of CSR, what CSR activities your company has undertaken and focused on,

  3. 3.

    Why do you think firms tend to act in a responsible way? And what lead some other firms to be irresponsible?

  4. 4.

    How are CSR activities organized and managed within the company? If and how do you measure the social performance?

  5. 5.

    The opportunities and challenges your company is facing in the business, political, and socio-cultural environment; if any, what are their impacts on firms’ social performance?

  6. 6.

    The strengths and weaknesses in the core business areas, such as the supply chain management, product development and innovation, human resource management, and communication.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Yin, J., Zhang, Y. Institutional Dynamics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in an Emerging Country Context: Evidence from China. J Bus Ethics 111, 301–316 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1243-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1243-4

Keywords

Navigation