Reclaiming Corporate Social Responsibility for Activists and Academics: An Analysis of International CSR Ranking Systems

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:42 PM
Room: 301
Distributed Paper
Ellis JONES , Sociology & Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
Is it possible for activists and ethical consumers to reclaim corporate social responsibility (CSR) from its current, largely greenwashed, state that seems to merely strengthen much of the same neoliberal agenda it was meant to address? While CSR research in general is expanding rapidly, there is relatively little research being done on CSR measurement, and almost all of this sub-category of study focuses on corporate self-reporting rather than 3rd party tracking of corporate behavior.? The solution may be found in nonprofit and academic efforts to develop valid measures of CSR for a public audience. This research project examines four CSR measurement systems created specifically for consumers in the US, UK and Australia in order to understand the current level of consensus/diversity in: 1) definitions, 2) methodologies, and 3) outcomes. Utilizing a combination of text analysis and standard statistical tools, these questions are answered with some surprising results. The rankings of 106 global corporations are compared across all four systems to reveal where consensus can be determined despite significantly different methodologies. CSR rankings results are reassessed in light of some of the most recent publications from Transnational Institute (“State of Power 2013”) and Asia Monitor Resource Center (The Reality of Corporate Social Responsibility) to determine where blind spots may be in each of the systems. Final recommendations include a call for increased research in the area of empirically measuring overall CSR behavior (with an emphasis on indicator validity) rather than generating additional research on CSR reporting, reputation indices, correlations with corporate profitability, or hyper-specific, non-comparable corporate efforts along particular lines of social or environmental responsibility. The argument presented includes a call for resistance movements to help transform capitalism rather than ceding the economic realm to neoliberal ideologues while focusing on social change efforts in other arenas.