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Dynamics of corporate social responsibility in Asia: Knowledge and norms

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Abstract

This article investigates Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Asia through two related themes: research knowledge and ethical norms. ‘CSR in Asia’ research is shown to be growing, particularly in East Asia. Compared with Western CSR literature, it is shown to be dominated by empirical, particularly quantitative, research. More substantively, this research is dominated by an issue focus on ethical norms, though this is in real decline. In this light, this article offers a closer investigation of the nature of ethical systems underpinning Asian business, and a comparison of Asian and Western conceptions of the community as a stakeholder.

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Notes

  1. Like Moon and Shen (2010), we did not follow Lockett et al (2006) by including analysis of the sources of CSR knowledge revealed in the publications.

  2. The absolute increase in the numbers of Asian papers published in the CSR journals was not matched by an increase in their proportion of the total number of papers published in these journals.

  3. For some scholars, the idea of CSR through mandate is an oxymoron (for example, McWilliams and Siegel, 2001), but see Knudsen et al (2015) on non-stipulative and non-coercive mandates for CSR.

  4. As the numbers are so small here, the pattern of a shift from international business-led organizations to some element of national government-led regulation is only worth noting in passing.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Hyoung Koo Moon and ABM Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Witt for their support in developing the manuscript. The authors are grateful to Luisa Murphy for her work on the bibliographic analysis and Glen Whelan for his thoughts on the ‘institutional focus’. Further, we are indebted to quite a number of colleagues in Asia for their insightful suggestions and comments on developing the discussion about ‘ethical foundations of business responsibility in Asia’.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Chunghee Kim.

Appendices

Appendix A

Asian CSR literature analysis methodology

Our findings on Asian CSR literature, 2000–2014, reflect two separate analyses which deployed similar, but not identical, methods:

Both analyses investigated the following questions:

  1. 1

    What is the changing ‘salience’ of CSR in Asia research, from P1 (2000–2004), through P2 (2005–2009) to P3 (2010–2014)?

  2. 2

    What is the nature of the knowledge presented in CSR in Asia research? Two forms of knowledge are distinguished: Empirical knowledge and Theoretical knowledge.

  3. 3

    What is the ‘focus’ of CSR in Asia research? Three forms of focus are distinguished: Geographical focus, Issue focus, Institutional focus.

Sample creation and salience of CSR in Asia research

In the creation of a sample which would then inform the changing salience of CSR in Asia research, slightly different search methods were used for the two different literatures.

Analysis of CSR journal articles in Asian journals of business and management (2000–2014)

  • Searches were conducted in the following three journals: Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Asia Pacific Business Review and Asian Business & Management.

  • Initial search terms were ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘corporate responsibility’, ‘sustainability’, ‘ethics’.

  • Supplementary searches were made for ‘social*’, ‘ethic*’, ‘sustain*’, ‘responsib*’, ‘envir*’, and ‘eco*’. These searches employed a wildcard (*) to enable variants (for example, ‘responsible’, ‘responsibility’).

  • Searches were in the fields of ‘Title’, ‘Keywords’ and ‘Abstract’ (where available).

  • The papers generated by these searches were then manually sorted to ensure the relevance of papers (for example, that they related to CSR as defined).

  • The papers were sorted into three periods in order to get insights into broad trends: P1 (2000–2004); P2 (2005–2009); P3 (2010–2014), according to date of publication.

Analysis of Asia journal articles in CSR journals (2000–2014)

  • Searches were conducted in the following four journals: Journal of Business Ethics, Business & Society, Business Ethics: A European Review, and Business Ethics Quarterly and Journal of Business Ethics

  • The searches were for journal articles addressing CSR themes in Asia, using search terms: ‘Asia’, ‘China’, ‘Japan’, ‘Korea’, ‘Taiwan’ (‘East Asia’ grouping); ‘Afghanistan’, ‘Bangladesh’, ‘India’, ‘Pakistan’, ‘Sri Lanka’ (‘South Asia’ grouping); ‘Burma/Myanmar’, ‘Indonesia’, ‘Singapore’, ‘Malaysia’, ‘Thailand’, ‘Philippines’, ‘Vietnam’ (‘South East Asia’ grouping) (see also geographical focus below)

  • The searches were in ‘ALL fields’

  • The papers were sorted into three periods in order to get insights into broad trends: P1 (2000–2004); P2 (2005–2009); P3 (2010–2014)

  • The papers generated by these searches were then manually sorted to ensure the relevance of papers

Research knowledge in CSR in Asia research

The methods described here were applied to both sets of CSR in Asia literature.

All papers were categorized as employing either empirical or theoretical methodologies. Although the journals selected would normally expect discussion of the theoretical significance of empirical research, it is the prime methodology that we coded for. The papers labelled empirical and theoretical were further classified as to whether they were, respectively, quantitative or qualitative, or non-normative or normative. These classifications were based on judgements by the researchers, usually of a paper’s title and abstract, but in rare occasions, the body of the paper was also investigated.

Focus of CSR in Asia research: Geographical, issue, institutional

The papers were coded for three forms of focus: geographical region, issue, institutions.

  • These decisions were made by analysis of each paper’s title, keywords and abstracts

  • ‘Geographical focus’ was coded accordingly to: initially by country; and then into one of three regions: ‘East Asia’ – ‘China’, ‘Japan’, ‘Korea’, ‘Taiwan’; ‘South Asia’ – ‘Afghanistan’, ‘Bangladesh’, ‘India’, ‘Pakistan’, ‘Sri Lanka’; South East Asia’ – ‘Burma/Myanmar’, ‘Indonesia’, ‘Singapore’, ‘Malaysia’, ‘Thailand’, ‘Philippines’, ‘Vietnam’

  • For ‘issue focus’, all papers were assigned one issue focus from the following: ‘social’, ‘environmental’, ‘ethical’, ‘stakeholder’ (see Lockett et al, 2006)

  • For ‘institutional’ focus, all papers were examined to see if they focused on ‘what institutionalizes CSR?’ (that is, what creates patterns of responsible behaviour beyond the level of the firm?). The following institutional classification was adopted: ‘Organization’ or ‘Regulation’. Papers were then sub-classified

  • Those focusing on ‘organization’ were coded as ‘government-led’, business-led, or civil society/multi-actor-led); and whether the organizations were ‘International’ or ‘National’ (including sub-national) in scope

  • Those focusing on ‘regulation’ were coded as ‘ethics’, ‘soft rules’ (for example, standards, incentives) or hard rules (for example, mandates); and whether the regulations were ‘universal’ or ‘relative/situated’ in scope.

The final lists of papers and their coding were then reviewed by one of the authors and the research assistant.

Appendix B

Table B1

Table B1 Ethical foundations of business responsibility in Asia

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Kim, R., Moon, J. Dynamics of corporate social responsibility in Asia: Knowledge and norms. Asian Bus Manage 14, 349–382 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/abm.2015.15

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