In this paper, the author has examined the role of both civil society and business actors in mobilizations concerned with CSR, the agenda that has emerged since the 1980s. Basically, the paper conveys that idea of dual movements; regulatory threats, social, political, market pressures associated with civil society and consumer and shareholder activism have pressurized big business to not only respond or react to the CSR efforts but also to itself mobilize to control, influence and bring the institutional reforms.
CSR agenda is essential in the present era since it can deal with some of the worst mal-development symptoms, such as poor working conditions, pollution, poor factory-community relations, and intrinsically harmful products. Ironically, it lacks the power to deal with the key political and economic mechanisms through which TNCs (transnational companies) exploit the developing countries of the world.
This paper also highlights how civil society’s engagement with CSR issues has expanded considerably since the 1980s as the first dimension of the movement. For instance, the upsurge in the role of NGOs in advocacy, economic and regulatory activities, and CSR activism was seen since the NGO sector was witnessing growth momentum, gaining legitimacy as a development actor and seeking new areas of engagement. Secondly, neo-liberals and activists, and NGOs proved failed attempts of the government and international organizations to regulate transnational companies. Thirdly, activists became more active since the concerns about the negative development impact of TNCs were coming to the surface. Fourth, activists’ mobilization efforts picked momentum as the several environmental and societal disasters and injustice caused by larger corporations became the hot issues.
The article also explains the movement of business, being the 2nd dimension of the CSR agenda movement, which was led by some big TNCs, and large national corporations. This movement boosted the CSR agenda through PR, cause-marketing campaigns, dialogues, networking, and engagement in partnerships, bringing concrete changes and reforms in business policies, management system, and performance. Furthermore, traditional industry clusters, institutions, financial industry also supported this agenda. Besides, NGOs ’ engagement with big corporations and institutions made them active players of the CSR agenda.
CSR can also be an effective strategy for TNCs to avoid increasing vulnerability to litigation related to social, environmental, and human rights issues worldwide. It can also prove a risk management tool for them since corporations can maintain their market share and company image and diminish regulatory threats from the government by engaging in voluntary CSR initiatives.
However, there is a certain amount of criticism on how corporations take CSR as a guise and greenwash and try to portray only their good practices to the general public and corporate world.
They often hide child labor in their factories located in developing countries and the damage they cause to their environment.
The post-voluntarist-the corporate accountability movement has the two aspects of demanding a new articulation of voluntary initiatives and law and articulating CSR with structural change rather than relying exclusively on individual effort or agency.
In short, CSR, as suggested by corporate accountability, cannot work for development when companies try to improve selected aspects of working conditions or environmental management systems. Moreover, structural and macro-policy issues such as patterns of the labor market, flexibilization, subcontracting, corporate taxation, pricing policies, etc., cannot be separated from the corporate responsibility agenda since these issues lead to negative development impacts. These impacts are evident incorporate power to exert control, gaining a competitive advantage over SMEs and infant industries, the political influence of transnational companies, and business lobbies.