Big Fish in a Big Pond: How Governments, Companies, and International Stakeholders Influence Corporate Social Responsibility

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Walsh-Pickering, David
Corporate Social Responsibility , ESG , Global Governance , Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance , Sustainability , Global Norms , Mutual Influence , Sustainability Management , Norm Diffusion , International Development
The international mining sector is constantly scrutinized because of its impact on social and environment issues. Stakeholders interested in improving the social conduct of mining companies have looked towards the development and promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the idea that companies have an intrinsic duty to operate in a way which limits negative impacts and builds a positive relationship with society. However, in a complex international system, how do stakeholders get others to adopt CSR norms that align with their interests, and which ones are the most effective at doing so? Existing narratives, such as those by Weber (2008), Brin & Nehme (2019), and Vashchenko (2017), have examined the impact of governments and international CSR initiatives on improving company practices, focusing on reducing operational risks and increasing profits (Brin and Nehme 2019; M. Weber 2008; Vashchenko 2017). While insightful, this research has looked more at the content of CSR norms and practices, rather than how stakeholder groups attempt to influence the practices of others. To better understand the dynamics of mutual influence and its relationship to CSR governance, this dissertation focuses on three stakeholder groups in the global CSR arena: governments, companies, and international bodies. I introduce a model, based on institutional and stakeholder theory, to identify and measure the organizational relationship between CSR stakeholders and study how this relationship influences their CSR approaches. This study relies on a comparative approach, examining each stakeholder’s organization, capabilities, and limitations for influencing the practices of others. I find that there are significant differences in the organizational ability of stakeholder groups to influence the practices of others, and that there are mechanisms employed by stakeholders to ensure conformity without the use of traditionally non-voluntary instruments – such as laws or regulations. In fact, while non-voluntary mechanisms are often seen as the most influential for having stakeholders align their practices, the international arena is visibly devoid of these mechanisms and relies more heavily on voluntary approaches which have enforceable qualities. The dissertation adds to the voluntary vs. non-voluntary debates and our understanding of norm diffusion, illustrating the complexity which is inherent to dynamics of mutual influence in the CSR space.
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