Epistemological Development of Corporate Social Responsibility: The Evolution Continues

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Purpose: This paper investigates the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / Corporate Social Performance (‘CSR /CSP’) from its inception to 2013, in the literature.


Design/Method: Using a bibliometric technique, we examine CRSs epistemological orientation and determine whether it is primarily comprised of authors building on each other’s work (‘progressive’) or by the development of alternative constructs (‘variegational’) or whether both orientations exist side-by-side within a dynamic, multidimensional concept.


Findings: The article reviews bibliometric analysis of the epistemological evolution of the CSR concept within the management literature from 1972 to 2002 using a dataset to that time of approximately 500 articles. Since then, the evolving CSR /CSP literature has transitioned the main CSR debate from a ‘whether or not to’ to a ‘how to’ implement CSR debate and the body of literature has grown to over 8,000 articles. We find that the progression of the CSR construct is both variegational and progressive and identify that the predominant theoretical theme is based on stakeholder theory.

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Research Implication: The results of this research, identifying that the epistemological evolution of the CSR concept within the recent management literature can be characterized as being both variegational and progressive, adds a valuable contribution to the ongoing and increasing body of knowledge relating to CSR.


Originality: The results of this study maybe of practical importance to scholars in identifying relevant foci for their future research into the CSR construct.

Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Responsibility of Business, Epistemological Orientation of Literature, Bibliometric Analysis

Croker, N. C., & Barnes, L. R. (2017). Epistemological development of corporate social responsibility: The evolution continues. Social Responsibility Journal, 13(2), 279-291. doi:10.1108/SRJ-02-2016-0029

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