Partnerships for CSR; Dream wish or Necessity?
Theo De Bruijn and Andre Nijhof, University of Twente, Netherlands
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taken up by an increasing number of businesses. They realize that they are held accountable for more than just their economic performance. CSR requires that organizations develop new competencies in order to integrate the new responsibilities into their (management) processes. Moreover, they need to position themselves in the changing interaction processes with public actors and NGOs through which the new responsibilities are articulated. CSR is not only relevant to the business community. It is related to the fundamental debate on the institutional set up of society and the roles and responsibilities of public and private parties in it. By most scholars it is, therefore, assumed that CSR can only be fully developed in partnership; partnerships in which the exploration of new roles is a central element. Empirical research suggests, however, that companies in their search for a new identity often act self-referential and do not necessarily involve a broad range of stakeholders. What does this suggest? Are we wrong in assuming a central role for partnerships in CSR? Or are companies missing central competences for CSR? This paper will address the question to what extent stakeholder involvement is a necessity for CSR conceptually, drawing on institutional and stakeholder theory, as well as empirically.

The paper stems from a research project implemented by a consortium led by the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Through the project, instruments and strategies are identified that companies can use to strengthen their CSR. The focus of the project is on the development of collective competencies for CSR. Next to a conceptual phase the project involves in-depth casestudies in Dutch SMEs.

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