Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 349–364 | Cite as

Who Needs CSR? The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on National Competitiveness

  • Ioanna Boulouta
  • Christos N. Pitelis


The link between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and competitiveness has been examined mainly at the business level. The purpose of this paper is to improve conceptual understanding and provide empirical evidence on the link between CSR and competitiveness at the national level. We draw on an eclectic-synthetic framework of international economics, strategic management and CSR literatures to explore conceptually whether and how CSR can impact on the competitiveness of nations, and test our hypotheses empirically with a sample of 19 developed countries over a 6-year period. Our evidence suggests that CSR can make a significant positive contribution to national competitiveness, as measured by national living standards. We also find that countries with a relatively low innovation record can benefit more, as compared to highly innovative countries, by implementing nationwide CSR-based positioning strategies.


Competitiveness Corporate social performance Corporate social responsibility CSR strategies Innovation National living standards 



For comments and discussion on earlier drafts, we are grateful to participants at the Social Issues in Management Division-Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2011, as well as to Prof. Roger Sugden and Dr. Stelios Zyglidopoulos. We are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers and the Corporate Responsibility section editor of this journal, Prof. J. Vanhamme, for their most constructive comments. For access to the data, we are indebted to the company Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) in Zurich. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lecturer in Management, Department of Management, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Judge Business SchoolUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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