On voluntarism and the role of governments in CSR : towards a contingency approachOn voluntarism and the role of governments in CSR : towards a contingency approach
Faculty of Applied Economics
Business ethics : a European review
24(2015):4, p. 378-397
University of Antwerp
In the corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature, the principle of voluntarism is predominant and implies that responsible business activities are discretionary and reach beyond the rule of law. This principle fails to explain that governments have a great interest in CSR and exercise influence on firms CSR activities. Therefore, we argue in favour of a contingency approach on voluntarism in CSR. To this end, we analyse the academic literature to demonstrate how governments are part of the CSR debate. We selected 703 papers where the impact of governments is mentioned from five journals in our field (BEER, BEQ, BSE, BAS, JBE) in the period 19822011. We studied the titles and abstracts of these papers and provide an overview of: (i) the geographical orientation of the reviewed studies; (ii) the variety of government levels involved; and (iii) the various subjects where governments appear to be involved. In addition, an in-depth reading of a subsample of 39 articles offers more details on the role of governments in the CSR literature. Hence, we offer a structured overview on the discussion of CSR and governments while stimulating a contingent understanding of the voluntarism concept in CSR.