Between creed, rhetoric façade, and disregard. Dissemination and theorization of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Austria

Publication: ThesisDoctoral thesis


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a global trend in corporate governance since the turn of the millennium. Despite a long tradition of adhering to an implicit CSR agenda, corporations in continental Europe have also recently shifted toward explicitly addressing issues of CSR. The study at hand - fueled by the theoretical perspective of organizational institutionalism - addresses the dissemination and theorization of this management concept in the Austrian corporate world. Built on the understanding that mobilization of legitimacy is fundamentally a dynamic and discursive process, the author gathers empirical data on a full count of Austrian publicly-traded corporations listed between 1990 and 2005 by examining corporations' annual reports and various other sources. The study combines a variety of analytical methods, in particular regression, network, and (multiple) correspondence analyses. Empirically, the objectives of this study are threefold: First, to explore the more general institutional framework in place; second, to explain the dissemination of CSR in terms of adopters' characteristics and field-level pressures; and third, to understand the structuring dimensions of meaning within the CSR discourse. Results suggest - despite broad dissemination - that the concept's anchorage remains on the periphery rather than at the core of business activities. In addition, findings demonstrate that it is mainly large, young, and profitable corporations employing capital-intense technologies and operating in sensitive industries that are more inclined to espouse explicit commitment to CSR policies. With the contested and ambiguous definition of CSR being one of the concept's most notable features, the study explores the CSR discourse as a bundle of conceptual sub-discourses. The author shows how both a web of actor categories and divergent thematic embeddings serve as a basis for the concept's theorization.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • WU Vienna
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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