There are hundreds of definitions of corporate social responsibility, or CSR. The one we think says it the best comes from the International Organization for Standardization’s  Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility, ISO 26000, published in 2010. It says:

“Social responsibility is the responsibility of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that:

  •     Contributes to sustainable development, including the health and the welfare of society
  •     Takes into account the expectations of stakeholders
  •     Is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behavior, and
  •     Is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships.”

Another details definition of CSR is one offered by World Business Council for Sustainable Development:

“The continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large”

A plethora of concepts have emerged to express the role and responsibilities of business in society. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) origins traced with early industrialists; it is now viewed as “one of, if not the most important issue of our time” (Hopkins, 2007: xiii).

CSR practice gaining roots in Africa but its scholarship is negligible. Myth that CSR in developing countries is new; e.g. suggestions that MNCs introduce CSR in host countries. Assumptions that companies that trade more with westernized countries might be expected to raise their levels of CSR (Fukukawa and Moon, 2004: reference to Japan; Muthuri and  Gilbert, 2011 on CSR in Kenya)

Suggestions that institutional context (e.g. laws, corruption; poor governance) explains corporate irresponsibility and complicity in Africa OR Influences social, economic and environmental performance of firms

CSR definitions is ambiguous; terms like corporate social investment, corporate citizenship, business ethics are used interchangeably

‘…the operational definition of CSR in the sub-Saharan region seems to lead towards corporate social investment. Herein lay both a challenge and an opportunity: What needs to be done to shift this trend and create a more holistic understanding of CSR and transform business philosophy and practice to align with it?’ (GTZ, 2009, p. 11)

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