Social responsibility and sustainable management are on the rise - in Chinese businesses, too. The current issue of the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs explores this trend.
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There is increasing evidence that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is emerging as a management issue within Chinese business. The main drivers of this movement, which are commonly discussed, include domestic political will and international pressure. However, what is less understood is the nature of the shaping of CSR.
As a concept, CSR has been widely interpreted as the way companies take into account interests of a broader range of stakeholders beyond owners and shareholders of the firm. Hence, it is about the way firms develop policies and practices to minimize the negative impacts and even increase the positive impacts of their business practices on various stakeholder groups.
In a Western context, the rationale for CSR has been explained as a result of interaction between business, government and society where institutional pressures that develop from these interactions lead to certain expectations regarding the nature of business practices. This is where firms increasingly see CSR as a strategic approach to maintaining and enhancing legitimacy and reputation so as to ensure the buy-in and loyalty of key stakeholder groups such as employees and customers.
Next to this more instrumental view, it has also been identified that firms can have more normative motives for CSR – seeing it as the right thing to do. In addition, another explanation looks at CSR as a form of window-dressing or "green-washing": a superficial, mostly communicative tool to enhance the image of the firm without making any substantial changes within it. Do the latter rationales apply to the Chinese context? This topical issue aims to shed some light on the nature of CSR in China and to identify key elements of the direction that CSR in China is moving.
Particular focus will be placed on how CSR is being shaped in China through the interaction of business with a variety of stakeholders, including government, employees and societal groups. From a business perspective, the definition of "stakeholder" places the firm in the centre of analysis and refers to "any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firms’ objectives".
Thus, a group or individual could represent employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, governments, communities, media, competitors, analysts, trade unions, NGOs and the general public. Bailey and Bryant categorize these "given" groups of actors as 1) the state, 2) multilateral institutions, 3) business sector, 4) environmental NGOs and 5) grassroots actors.
The differential roles of these stakeholders in shaping Chinese CSR in today’s global context will be assessed by the four contributors to this issue, who will address the following three questions:
This introduction will first discuss the changing Chinese context conducive to the rise of CSR and map its history in China. Then it will identify instrumental actors in Chinese civil society and discuss the nature of interactions between the various stakeholders. The other articles within this topical issue will continue in a similar way, as contributors employ the stakeholder approach and focus on the differential roles played by state and non-state actors in shaping Chinese CSR. [...]
Read on in the introduction of this issue:
May Tan-Mullins and Peter S. Hofman: The Shaping of Chinese Corporate Social Responsibility
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