Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 401–418 | Cite as

Bankers Bashing Back: Amoral CSR Justifications

  • Peter Norberg


The finance industry is required to respond to public criticism of perceived immoral behaviour. To create legitimacy, financial firms not only undertake corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, but also support such activities with precise justifications. In this paper, we study CSR justifications appearing in annual and sustainability reports from the Swedish finance industry. Our objective is to investigate the ethical character of CSR justifications in the finance industry. This is an interesting topic, both because CSR carries ethical meaning and because CSR justifications play a role in actual business activities. A secondary aim of this article is to test whether decoupled corporate claims about CSR can be recoupled, which would potentially help companies to act responsibly. The observed CSR justifications avoided the fundamental question of whether the finance industry does in fact have responsibilities, and they did not manifest awareness of stakeholders’ demands for CSR. Seemingly value-based CSR activities often lacked ethical justifications. These characteristics do not harmonize with the responsible image that the contemporary finance industry wants to portray. Our counterintuitive finding is that amorality prevails in the justifications that banks give for undertaking CSR activities.


Amorality Justifications Criticism CSR Finance industry Legitimacy Taking responsibility Talking responsibility 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Organisational and Worklife EthicsErsta Sköndal University CollegeStockholmSweden

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