Tag Archives: legitimacy theory

Promoting strategic corporate social responsibility among practitioners

What is Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility?

Organisations engage in Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (Strategic CSR) when they integrate responsible behaviours in their corporate practices (Camilleri, 2018; Porter & Kramer, 2011). Therefore, Strategic CSR is often evidenced by the businesses’ engagement with key stakeholders, including customers, employees, shareholders, regulatory authorities and communities as their non-financial activities can have an effect on society and the natural environment (Camilleri, 2017a). The ultimate goal of strategic CSR is to create both economic and social value (Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Falck & Heblich, 2007).


The businesses’ CSR practices may result in a sustained competitive advantage if they are willing to forge strong relationships with their stakeholders (Camilleri, 2015a; Freeman,  & McVea, 2001). Therefore, businesses ought to communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, regulatory stakeholders as well as with their surrounding community (EU, 2016; Bhattacharya, Korschun & Sen, 2009). Positive stakeholder relationships can lead to an improved organizational performance, in the long run (Camilleri, 2015a).

The most successful businesses are increasingly promoting the right conditions of employment for their employees, within their supply chains (Camilleri, 2017b). They are also instrumental in improving the lives of their suppliers (Camilleri, 2017c; Porter & Kramer, 2011). They do so as they would like to enhance the quality and attributes of their products or services; which are ultimately delivered to customers and consumers. Hence, their long-term investments on strategic CSR activities are likely to yield financial returns for them. At the same time they will add value to society (McWilliams et al., 2006; Falck & Heblich, 2007). Therefore, the strategic CSR involves the promotion of socially and environmentally responsible practices they are re-aligned with the businesses’ profit motives (Camilleri, 2017b,c).

Key Theoretical Underpinnings

The Strategic CSR perspective resonates well with the agency theory. In the past, scholars argued that the companies’ only responsibility was to maximise their owners’ and shareholders’ wealth (Levitt, 1958; Friedman, 1970). Hence, companies were often encouraged to undertake CSR strategies which can bring value to their businesses and to disregard those activities which are fruitless. However, at times, the fulfilment of philanthropic responsibilities can also  benefit the bottom line (Lantos, 2001).

Although, it could be difficult to quantify the returns of responsible behaviours, relevant research has shown that those companies that practiced social and environmental responsibility did well by doing good (Falck & Heblich, 2007, Porter & Kramer, 2011).Some of the contributions on this topic suggest that corporate philanthropy should be deeply rooted in the firms’ competences and linked to their business environment (Camilleri, 2015; Porter & Kramer, 2002; Godfrey, 2005). Many authors often referred to the CSR’s core domains (economic, legal and ethical responsibilities) that were compatible and consistent with the relentless call for the business case of CSR (Camilleri, 2015b; Carroll & Shabana, 2010, Vogel, 2005).

Many commentators argued that the strategic CSR practices may result in a new wave of social benefits as well as gains for the businesses themselves (Fombrun et al., 2000; Porter & Kramer, 2011) rather than merely acting on well-intentioned impulses or by reacting to outside pressures (Van Marrewijk, 2003). Lozano (2015) indicated that the business case is the most important driver for CSR engagement. Thus, proper incentives may encourage managers ‘to do well by doing good’ (Falck & Heblich, 2007). If it is a company’s goal to survive and prosper, it can do nothing better than to take a long-term view and understand that if it treats society well, society will return the favour. Companies could direct their discretionary investments to areas (and cost centres) that are relevant to them (Gupta & Sharma, 2009). The reconciliation of shareholder and other stakeholders addresses the perpetual relationship between business and society, as companies are expected to balance the conflicting stakeholder interests for long term sustainability (Orlitzky et al., 2011; Camilleri, 2017c; Camilleri 2019).


Many companies are increasingly recognising the business case for CSR as they allocate adequate and sufficient resources to financial and non-financial activities that will ultimately benefit their stakeholders. Their motivation behind their engagement in strategic CSR practices is to increase their profits and to create shareholder value. At the same time, they strengthen their competitive advantage through stakeholder management.


Bhattacharya CB, Korschun D, Sen S (2009). Strengthening stakeholder–company relationships through mutually beneficial corporate social responsibility initiatives. J Bus Ethics 85(2):257–272.

Camilleri, M.A. (2015a). Valuing Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Reporting. Corporate Reputation Review, 18 (3), 210-222.

Camilleri, M.A. (2015b) The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility. In Menzel Baker, S. & Mason, M.(Eds.) Marketing & Public Policy as a Force for Social Change Conference. (Washington D.C., 4th June). Proceedings, pp. 8-14, American Marketing Association.

Camilleri M.A. (2017a) Corporate sustainability, social responsibility and environmental management: an introduction to theory and practice with case studies. Springer, Cham, Switzerland.

Camilleri, M.A. (2017b). Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility Policies in the United States of America. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. 8 (1), 77-93.

Camilleri, M.A. (2017c). The Rationale for Responsible Supply Chain Management and Stakeholder Engagement. Journal of Global Responsibility. 8 (1), 111-126.

Camilleri, M.A. (2018). The SMEs’ Technology Acceptance of Digital Media for Stakeholder Engagement. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development.  26(4), 504-521.

Camilleri, M.A. (2019). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes toward ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence. 30(14), 1549-1561.

Carroll AB, Shabana KM (2010). The business case for corporate social responsibility: a review of concepts, research and practice. Int J Manag Rev 12(1):85–105.

European Union (2016). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the EU. European Commission Publications, Brussels, Belgium http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=331.

Falck O, Heblich S (2007). Corporate social responsibility: doing well by doing good. Business Horizons 50(3):247–254.

Freeman, R. E., & McVea, J. (2001). A stakeholder approach to strategic management. The Blackwell handbook of strategic management, 189-207.

Friedman M (1970). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine 13:32–33.

Godfrey PC (2005). The relationship between corporate philanthropy and shareholder wealth: a risk management perspective. Acad Manag Rev 30(4):777–798.

Gupta S, Sharma N (2009). CSR-A business opportunity. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations:396–401.

Lantos GP (2001). The boundaries of strategic corporate social responsibility. J Consum Mark 18(7):595–632.

Levitt T (1958). The dangers of social-responsibility. Harv Bus Rev 36(5):41–50.

Lozano R (2015). A holistic perspective on corporate sustainability drivers. Corp Soc Responsib Environ Manag 22(1): 32–44.

Orlitzky M, Siegel DS, Waldman DA (2011). Strategic corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Business & society 50(1):6–27.

Porter ME, Kramer MR (2011). Creating shared value. Harv Bus Rev 89(1/2):62–77.

Van Marrewijk M (2003). Concepts and definitions of CSR and corporate sustainability: between agency and communion. J Bus Ethics 44(2):95–105.

Vogel DJ (2005). Is there a market for virtue? The business case for corporate social responsibility. Calif Manag Rev 47(4):19–45.

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Filed under Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, Shared Value, Small Business, SMEs, Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainability, sustainable development

Stakeholder engagement for corporate citizenship (in the U.S.A.)

thm3rqcunjThe US government agencies and the bureaus regulatory policies and principles are creating both challenging opportunities and threats for the businesses. Evidently, the institutional legacies are affecting the ways in which civil society, industry and NGOs interact together (Camilleri, 2015). This reasoning echoes the legitimacy theory as heterogenous, competing groups of stakeholders often expect and solicit social and environmentally responsible behaviours from businesses. Debatably, the U.S. government and its agencies should ensure that the true ecological cost of environmental degradation and climate change is felt in the market. In this light, there may be scope for U.S.  authorities to promote responsible behaviors.


For instance, recently there is an increased awareness on the circular economies that are characterised by their resource efficiency levels and cleaner production through recycling, reducing and reusing materials (EU, 2015; Geng, Fu, Sarkis and Xue, 2012; Geng and Doberstein, 2008).

US corporations should be urged to find alternative ways for sustainable energy generation, energy and water conservation, environmental protection and greener transportation systems. This way, they will be considered as legitimate businesses; as their corporate performance matches their stakeholders’ expectations (Camilleri, 2016; 2015). The organisations’ implementation of their legitimation strategy could include voluntary and solicited CSR disclosures that address norms, values or beliefs of stakeholders (Reverte, 2009). Responsible companies could be in a position to prevent third-party pressures through their engagement in social responsibility practices and sustainable behaviours. At the same time, they could lower the criticisms from the public and minimise their legal cases through their active compliance with regulations and guiding principles.

The organisations’ legitimacy is a critical driver for a dynamic institutional and organisational change (Tost, 2011). The organisations’ evaluative process was also suggested by Scherer et al. (2013) as they discussed about the corporations’ isomorphic adaptation to societal pressures. Yet, such political perspectives have often been considered as being overly normative (Kuhn and Deetz, 2008; Scherer and Palazzo, 2007) and of neglecting the complexity of the debates between corporations and society. Baur and Arenas (2014) also noted that the regulated interactions and the consensus building may not be required if corporations address the sustainable development issues. However, the responsible behavioural issues often call for the re-negotiation of social, economic, and environmental factors among regulatory authorities and other interested parties.

Indeed, addressing the environmental protection often requires shifting through a multitude of complex and often contradictory demands of stakeholders (Camilleri, 2015; Freeman, 2010; Hardy & Phillips, 1998) that are defined beyond nation-state governance institutions. Multiple ethical systems, cultural backgrounds, and rules of behaviour could possibly coexist within the same communities (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007) as the legitimacy of the business community around sustainable development issues is often being challenged (Porter & Kramer, 2011; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011).

Therefore, the stakeholder engagement processes are important instruments for legitimacy building as the pluralist nature of US politics encourages the formation of lobby groups and associations that are often regarded as legitimate representatives (Camilleri, 2016; Doh and Guay, 2006). Other previous research also contended that the legitimacy in resolving social responsibility and sustainable development issues often requires ‘the ability to establish trust-based collaborative relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders especially those with non-economic goals (Sharma & Vredenburg, 1998, p. 735). These stakeholders may have an accepted role in influencing the public policy process.


Excerpt from: Camilleri, M.A. (2016) Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility Policies in the United States of America. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy (Forthcoming)


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Camilleri, M. A. (2016), “Corporate sustainability and responsibility toward education”, Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 7, No 1.
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Filed under Circular Economy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, Stakeholder Engagement