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Development. : . Changing. . Roles. and Perceptions. Peter . Utting. United Nations . Research. Institute . for Social . Development. (UNRISD). ESRC Research Seminar Series, . “Changing Cultures of Competitiveness”. ID: 384810

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Business and Inclusive

Development: Changing Roles and PerceptionsPeter UttingUnited Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)ESRC Research Seminar Series, “Changing Cultures of Competitiveness”Institute for Advanced Studies, Lancaster University17 April 2009


Purpose of presentation

1.To examine the changing roles of business in growth models and policy regimes conducive to inclusive development

2.To assess the potential and limits of CSR from the perspective of inclusive development

3.To highlight the importance of multi-disciplinarity for understanding the potential and limits of CSR


Key questions to be addressed


What worked historically?

Why did CSR emerge?

What interests, institutions and ideational factors are driving the agenda?

What has happened in practice?

What gets left off the agenda? And why?

What sort of development model does CSR really support?

What might be done differently?


What worked historically?

Under what conditions did large corporations play a

constructive role in growth models and policy

regimes conducive to inclusive development ?

What worked in the late industrializers (Nordics & East Asia) and Fordist/New Deal USA?

-- certain sets of business preferences

-- certain types of state-market and power relations

-- certain forms of collaborative institutions

Albeit significant variations under different Varieties of

Capitalism and Welfare State or Policy Regimes


Business preferences

- company support for education & training, healthy workforce, decent wages, related for example to the need for skilled labour, to reduce absenteeism/rise productivity, to expand consumer markets

- ISI/protectionism mitigate low wage preferences

- production centred in TNC affiliates (rather than out-sourcing)

- managerial ‘long-termism” (concern with value creation over the long term)


Power relations

- presence of countervailing forces; balance of social forces (e.g. strong state, strong labour); relative decline in corporate power (during depression and WWII)

- developmental states (with vision, regulatory and administrative capacity)

- contestation; social movement activism


Collaborative Institutions


social pacts: “


” (e.g. good working conditions, life-long employment, healthcare, fiscal responsibility, philanthropy) as part of a bargain/compromise in return for pro-business & pro market incentives (e.g. industrial policy, minimalist regulation)

- embedded elites, which identified with the community

& their workforce (through direct production);

(Gramscian) hegemony (discursive power of business


- encompassing business associations, representing

broad range of private sector interests, including


- stakeholder consultation/dialogue; collective bargaining


Globalization and Liberalization

Fundamental changes occur in business preferences, power relations and collaborative institutions

Stylized facts & perceptions (albeit with variations by VoC and policy regime):

- “rolling back” of certain state functions; rise of the “competition state” &

”New Constitutionalism”

- deterritorialized capital versus territorially constrained states

- global penetration of TNCs & growing structural, instrumental and

discursive power of big business

- unravelling of corporatist social pacts

- weakening of countervailing forces (state and labour)

- nature of social movements/civil society and activism changes with rise

of NGOs & the information revolution

- importance of “knowledge”, knowledge networks, “epistemic

authority” i.e. decision-making based on expert technical opinion

- business preferences change (e.g. focus on skills & higher

education; increased international competition puts pressure

on firms to cut costs/wages; race to the bottom)

- “disembedding” of elites through some forms of FDI, global supply

chains and sub-contracting & flexibilization of labour markets

- short-termism: quarterly results, prioritization of shareholder

interests and CEO remuneration.


Tensions in the contemporary model of “corporate capitalism”

Heightened reality or perception of externalities: environmental degradation, “race to the bottom”, tax avoidance/evasion & bribery; global corporations seen to be implicated in global injustice

Moral issues surface as corporate rights far outpace corporate responsibilities; as rich get richer; and global corporations penetrate poor countries & communities

Rise of activist protests and campaigns in 1980s/90s:

Oil spills (Exxon), pesticides (Union Carbide), human rights abuses (Shell), indigenous peoples (Rio Tinto), sweatshops (Nike), infant feeding (Nestle), deforestation (McDonalds), GMOs (Monsanto)

Increased risk, complexity and uncertainty for large firms

Vulnerability of large corporations that rely on brands and company or product image

As a result:

TNCs need to better manage risks and reputation

TNCs need to control their supply chains

TNCs need to control the activists & regulatory pressures

CSR becomes a crucial element in this strategy


The Rise & Institutionalization of CSR

- CSR takes off internationally in early 1990s (Earth Summit) & is backed by powerful actors, institutions and ideas:

- Emergence of a CSR “movement”, involving global corporations, business associations, NGOs, academia (management studies, IR, development studies), international organizations, and (belatedly) trade unions and government.

- CSR becomes institutionalized via CSR consultancy industry, MBA curricula, multi-stakeholder initiatives (e.g. UN Global Compact, ISO, ETI, SA8000, Global Reporting Initiative, etc., and international soft law


Ideational foundations and drivers of CSR


Limits of government & “command and control” regulation (inefficiency, rent seeking

Key role of private actors & self-regulating markets (corporate self-regulation)

Institutional / governance theory

New institutionalist economics (institutions matter for economic performance) (Douglass North, Oliver Williamson)

Embeddedness & embedded liberalism (Karl Polanyi, John Ruggie)

Global governance: importance of multilayered and multi-playered governance (Robert Keohane); limits of inter-state relations;

importance of non-state actors (business and NGOs) in knowledge networks, “epistemic communities” and private regulation

Management theory

Stakeholder theory (Freeman 1984)

Win-win (Michael Porter)

Organizational theory

New institutionalism (culture, norms and values within organizations matter (DiMaggio and Powell 1991)

Organizational learning to deal with complexity (Peter Senge 1990)


CSR: What is it?

Multiple definitions

Responsiveness to societal and stakeholder concerns;

Internalization of social and environmental objectives in a “triple-bottom line” (Elkington)

Voluntary initiatives that go beyond philanthropy and law

“Continuous improvement”

Multiple roles

Risk and reputation management

To enhance legitimacy

To control supply chains

To “do no harm”

To fill weaknesses & gaps in global governance and regulatory systems

To gain influence in public opinion & public policy, & in regulatory arenas (private regulation)


An Expanding CSR Agenda

Eco-efficiency & environmental protection

Occupational health and safety

Child labour

Community assistance (“corporate social investment” – health and education; differential pricing (e.g. HIV/AIDS drugs)

CSR in the supply chain

Ethical investment

Labour rights

Human rights

Conflict zones

Ethical & Fair trade

Poverty reduction


CSR & the International Poverty Reduction agenda

In context of the post Washington Consensus, poverty reduction re-emerges as a strategic priority in international development circles

reflects slight shift in correlation of forces from IFIs to UN

But also “convergence” in international development thinking and policy, favouring institutional fine-tuning (as opposed to transformative change), voluntary approaches, public private partnerships, private regulation

“Late CSR” takes on board poverty reduction


The new developmental logic of CSR:

Big business is seen as a proactive

development agent:

Providing basic goods and services (e.g. water, cheap/free medicines)

Private standard-setting

Public-private partnerships

Directly engaging with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Ethical and fair trade

“Bottom of the Pyramid” (Prahalad)


Potential and Limits of CSR

CSR Balance Sheet

After 2 decades of CSR: research is now shedding light on its impact from a development perspective (Hamman et al.; Blowfield and Frynas; Eade and Sayer; Fig; Barrientos and Smith; Utting & Zammit)

Good awareness-raising tool to get corporations to think more systematically about social, environmental, human rights issues;

New financing for development; mobilizes new resources for social and sustainable development through PPPs;

Some areas of progress, e.g. child labour, occupational health and safety (OHS), environmental management systems (EMS) in TNC affiliates and top tier suppliers; compliance with minimum wage legislation (Barrientos & Smith – ETI evaluation)

CSR fills some normative & institutional gaps, (new standards, disclosure, social audits)

Evolves through time (more issues; ratcheting-up of standards, better reporting; « learning by doing »)


Potential and Limits of CSR

Problem of scalability or limited uptake

Operational weaknesses related to implementation

Structural conditions that constrain CSR

The politics of CSR



CSR discourse tends to suggest that many/most corporations are engaged

Reality check:

Universe of TNCs: 79,000 (UNCTAD 2008)

TNC affiliates: 790,000

TNC suppliers: millions


Table 1

Participation in Selected Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives. 2008Multi-stakeholder Initiative EntitiesISO 14001 Certification 154,572Global Reporting Initiative1,500United Nations Global Compact 4,961Forest Stewardship Council 7,500Marine Stewardship Council38Partnerships for Sustainable Development 344SA 8000 1,779Fair Labor Association- Participating companies - Accredited companies 2711Ethical Trading Initiative53Principles for Responsible InvestmentAsset ownersInvestment managers 119 216Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative 39

Source: Official Websites


Variations in response

Study of top 100 Fortune corporations, reveals major differences in approach and commitment to CSR & poverty reduction.

Inactive approach:

No explicit statements on poverty. We create jobs and employment (as by-product of profit maximization). Payment of taxes. Affordable products. No code of conduct and/or low compliance likelihood. No support for labels. No separate business model for poor.

Reactive approach:

Contribution to economic growth. Narrow BOP: mention of market changes in poor regions. Creation of local employment used defensively. Micro-credits as (small) part of philanthrophy. Transfer of technology and knowledge mentioned, but not specified. Vague code and low specificity as regards poverty. Support for Global Compact and modest support for GRI. Dialogue vaguely mentioned

Active approach:

Explicit statement on moral unacceptability of poverty.Definition of decent wage. Broad BOP: explicit view on how this strategy addresses poverty alleviation (net effect). Creation of local employment opportunities at suppliers. Micro-credits as part of business strategy. Transfer of technology and knowledge is specified. Explicit support for MDG1. Wholehearted support for GRI. Philanthropy is aimed at poverty in general. Specific code and/or labelling on poverty and/or fair trade.

Pro-active approach:

Strategic statement on poverty. Explicit support for all MDGs (including #8 on partnerships). Active partnerships with NGOs and international organisations on poverty. Very explicit code and support of highest possible transparency (GRI). Transfer of technology and knowledge is specified and discussed for its impact on poverty alleviation. Codes and labelling activities part of a contract with third parties (high specificity and high compliance likelihood). Dialogues as an explicit tool to raise strategic effectiveness. Search for a separate (strategic) business model for the poor.

Source: Rob van Tulder 2008


Varied responses (global corporations)

Fortune 100 corporations, 2006

%; overlap possible

Inactive Re-active Active Pro-active

Total (N=100)

63 55

33 4

Europe (N=52) 48

67 52 8

USA (N=30)

77 47

13 0

East Asia (N=15)


27 7 0

Developing (N=3) 33


33 0

Source. van Tulder 2008


Operational & Structural limits of CSR

Weaknesses & Blind Spots

- sub-contracting

- migrant, casual workers often excluded;

- issues of concern to women workers often excluded;

- working conditions versus labour rights (freedom of association and

collective bargaining)

- minimum wages versus

“living wage”



approach to CSR in the supply chain; negative impacts on

suppliers and workers in developing countries)

- superficial audits

- focus on micro (firm level) as opposed to macro (public

policy) issues, e.g. lobbying, tax evasion & tax avoidance;

- focus on primary and secondary sectors; limited attention to financial


- weak disclosure & free riding (e.g. company sustainability reporting & UN

Global Compact

- double standards: suppliers operate in a straight-jacket; talk the talk of CSR and lobby for socially regressive policies or engage in « the race to the bottom »


Oil Industry Good Practice (left column) vs. Bad Practice (right column)



Multinational Monitor (2000 ; 2005) ; Public Eye on Davos ( 2005) ATCA (1999)

Chevron Corporation


Multinational Monitor ( Chevron: 1992, 1998 ; Texaco1993; Unocal: 1994 1996) ; Public Eye on Davos (Unocal 2005; Chevron 2006) ATCA (1999)



Multinational Monitor (Exxon: 1989, 2001; Exxon Mobil: 1997, 2001; Mobil: 1998 ) ; Public Eye on Davos ( 2006) ATCA (1996)

Occidental Petroleum


ATCA (1999)

Royal Dutch/Shell


Multinational Monitor (1998, 1995, 2002) ; Public Eye on Davos ( 2005) ATCA (1997)





Multinational Monitor (Elf: 1997) ; Public Eye on Davos ( 2005)



It is difficult to generalize about CSR & the behaviour of firms; there exist multiple drivers, conditions and contexts:

Business preferences vary by firm & industry & VoC

Normative environment and competitive pressures inside firms vary, as do societal expectations about the role of business

Institutional & regulatory contexts vary

Contestation (social pressures) varies


Multiple perspectives on the pros and cons of CSR

Very different interpretations therefore exist regarding the contribution, substance & potential of CSR:

CSR as a distraction that undermines sound business practices, shareholder primacy (Henderson, The (early) Economist)

CSR as a distraction from regulations, democracy & citizenship citizenship (Robert Reich, Noreena Hertz);

Learning by doing; win-win potential; CSR instruments and institutions evolve, mature & are gradually ratcheted-up; (Porter, Ruggie, Zadek, Hopkins)

The substance of CSR reflects the balance of social forces & contestation, hegemonic & counter-hegemonic struggle (Antonio Gramsci, David Levy, Utting)

Greenwash: CSR = window-dressing, misinformation and PR to legitimize business-as-usual (Kenny Bruno, Judith Richter)

Means to stabilize conditions of late capitalism; «new ethicalism » (Ngai-Ling Sum, Claire Cutler)


New Directions in Governance & Regulation - Theory

Moving Foward ?

Fundamentally depends on reconfiguring governance systems and the balance of forces:

state: law & public policy (national and international)

economic: market pressures; corporate hierarchy

associational: networks, associations, communities & civil society (

Hollingsworth & Boyer; Crouch


Economic globalization and liberalization generated a deep governance imbalance: economic (and finance) modes became too powerful, and trumped state & associational modes

Current crisis creates spaces for a) reconfiguring power relations, b) reforming/transforming institutions, and c) addressing the blind spots on the CSR agenda


Recent proposals

Recent shifts in thinking and practice:

- less “policing” of supply chains by TNCs; limits of social auditing; more training & capacity building in SMEs

- greater attention to the actual developmental impacts of CSR & PPPs (not just process)

- more equitable power relations and participation within MSIs and PPPs

- the need to strengthen: a) systems of industrial relations, e.g. via International Framework Agreements, and b) state labor inspection capacity.

- need for greater policy coherence: e.g. when private sector expansion occurs, state regulatory capacity needs to be strengthened not diminished)

- greater compatibility between CSR initiatives in LDCs and national & international development strategies & priorities

- need to ensure “corporate accountability” by strengthening disclosure of information, grievance procedures for stakeholders, and possibilities for redress; as well as penalties for non- compliance;

- important role for international “soft” and “hard” law, e.g. OECD Guidelines on MNEs; UN Human Rights law


Towards “Corporate Accountability” ?

Recent rise of a “corporate accountability movement”

- Moving beyond corporate self-regulation and

voluntary approaches

- Moving beyond the narrow emphasis on


values, stakeholder dialogues, best practice


Need to reconnect:

CSR and public policy & law; voluntary & legalistic approaches

Reconnecting CSR and southern stakeholders, development strategies and priorities

Reconnecting CSR and trade unions & industrial relations (not only NGOs & business)


CSR & Crisis: Possible effects of the current crises


Belt-tightening: decline in CSR spending and corporate giving

More reliance on sub-contracting & labour flexibilization

Consumers less interested in “ethical consumerism”, prefer to buy in Mal-Mart


New CSR issues or priorities emerge: e.g. executive pay; balance between real wages and profits and dividends; CSR and the financial sector; greater transparency in reporting (e.g. lending); employment generation; conditions of retrenchment and retraining; & climate change & eco-efficiency.

More attention to “corporate responsibility” and corporate ethics

“Regulation” is back on the agenda

The state will reassert its role in regulation and social protection

Open questions:

Will some issues move off the agenda? e.g. poverty reduction

Will vulnerable companies want to defend against reputation damage and therefore take CSR seriously?

Will trade unions reassert themselves?

Will US push for higher labour standards abroad?

Responses will vary by firm, industry, society and VoC


Another crisis -- the Intellectual Crisis of CSR

4 analytical and empirical limitations of

mainstream thinking on CSR. It is


doesn’t draw on the lessons of history about how and why big business engaged with inclusive development

Empirically weak:

focuses on “best practices” and doesn’t examine comprehensively CSR performance and outcomes

Theoretically thin:

ignores key theoretical approaches that facilitate our understanding of the potential and limits of CSR

Politically naive:

fails to acknowledge the political underpinnings and dynamics of institutional change

This suggests the crucial importance of breaking out of the confines

of management studies and IR, and drawing more on sub-disciplines

and schools of thought associated with political science, sociology,

law, human geography and development studies.


CSR & Development Models

How do CSR (and Corporate Accountability (CA), PPPs & fair trade (FT) look from a development perspective?

How do they relate to different development models?

Grosso modo – three models:

Neoliberalism (freeing-up of markets; corporate control; trickle down social development)

Embedded liberalism (free markets; FDI and institutions to control for perverse effects)

Alternative globalization (counter-hegemonic struggle; corporate down-sizing, local development, associative/social economy


Situating CSR in a development framework

CSR & PPPs (depending on their content and context) tend to reinforce the neo-liberal or embedded liberalism models; CA & FT tend to reinforce the embedded liberalism or alter-globalization models













For further information on UNRISD research on CSR, see

Markets, Business and Regulation programme

Contact: Peter Utting (

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