Evolution and Diverse Dimensions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): A Comprehensive Literature Review and Analysis

  • 14Pages
  • Published On: 17-10-2023

Literature Review

Bowen (1953) produced a piece of seminal nature on social responsibility with its inauguration in the period of modern thinking (Carroll 1999). This is on CSR (corporate social responsibility), where there has been a development on the management academic literature causing large-scale debate on the topic’s nature. The practitioners and the academics have undergone renewal of interest on the topic that propitiates an array of terminology, perspectives and the theories causing confusion while attempt is made in understanding the notion deeply. The bibliometric analysis of CSR is being developed with its application on specific methodology that has been on the basis of Content Analysis (CA). The CA seeks for the clarification of the CSR epistemological evolution’s direction. When, the results permitted them in discarding the CSR’s epistemological evolutional sense having the orientation of a normative aspect, they were unable in discriminating which of the possible variegation, progressive or perspectives calls for the replication of the research pertaining to the provisioning of evidence regarding this issue (Carroll 1999). The research findings are used along with outlining of the CSR theory in organization and management literature.


From 1950s onwards, the CSR with the terms related to it have been conceptualized, such as, corporate philanthropy, corporate citizenship, corporate social performance, corporate social responses, and corporate social responsiveness; originating from the management area (Matten and Crane 2005). On the basis of the previous management and business knowledge, various CSR scholars have undergone the exploration of the CSR theme and the notions related to it being derived from a number of perspectives, such as, leadership, integrated strategy, stakeholder relations, and marketing and obligation themes.

Bowen (1953) first suggested the definition of CSR as social obligation with respect to the desirable values of society and terms of the objectives. The future research in the area of CSR is founded with the view of social obligation. After Bowen (1953), Carroll (1979) framed the identification of the CSR pyramid including the CSR development’s four stages: philanthropic, ethical, legal, and economic obligations. According to Carroll (1979) the four categories mentioned are mutually exclusive, with no intention of them in portraying a continuum with concerns related to economics on one hand and on the other hand, the social concerns.

The marketing scholars put emphasis on the social obligation in relation to the marketing functions, without the considerations of other facets of CSR activities. The studies related to CSR in the area of marketing is focused on the dimensions of marketing, such as marketing that are cause related (Barone et al. 2000). This can be done in relation to the communication with consumers that concerns with the issues of CSR (Caruana and Crane 2008), the reputation of the corporation and customer response (Ellen et al. 2006).

Another foundation of the development of the CSR theme is the stakeholder theory. As per Maignan and Ferrell (2004), the organizational activities related to the CSR are of two main motivation types. First type is the instrumental approach. The reliance of the companies on the stakeholders is for the provision of resources or continuous support (Hopkins 2003). This makes the managers having considerations of stakeholders’ needs and claims. The second type is the perspective of morality. The argument extended by Donaldson and Preston (1995) has been that all groups and persons having legitimate interests that participate in obtaining benefits from an organization.

On the basis of the discussion on stakeholder and marketing related management in the area of CSR, the increasing number of the scholars has been valuing the examination in relation to the issues of CSR from the aspect of the integrated strategy (Cronbach 1971). For example, Maignan and Ferrell (2004) argue that the socially responsible action is possible when their behaviors are aligned with demands and the norms that the main stakeholders embraces. The illustration of the framework is analyzing the outcomes and antecedents of the behavior related to the organizational CSR from the main stakeholders’ perspectives.

Maak and Pless (2006) have produced a figure with an explanation that during the change in the social processes, the relations between the company and the stakeholders, and the stakeholders themselves and the roles played by them and the way their mechanisms is used in influencing the organizational strategy. The observation made by Porter and Kramer (2003) shows that CSR that is entrenched in a strategy which are integrated can be celled as “strategic CSR”.

Based on the styles of current leadership (for example, ethical, authentic, charismatic, transformational, shared, servant, participative, and spiritual leadership), some scholars have made attempts in incorporating CSR into the theory of leadership. One of first attempt of study in this area has been made by Maak and Pless (2006). The naming of the leadership approach has been on the basis of CSR ideals, such as “responsible leadership” and defining it as the ability and art that involves sustaining, cultivating, and building trustful relationship with various stakeholders. This can be done in achieving commonly shared and meaningful business vision. For instance, a fierce debate has occurred between Waldman and Siegel (2008), where the argument is related to whether the responsibility of the leaders are morally driven or economic driven, or whether the benefits can be accrued in the organizational financial performance with their responsible behaviors.

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The literature review is meant for: first, in filling a review gap; second, identification of the CSR development milestones in understanding further CSR evolution; and third, in encouraging the CSR studies’ development and the organizational level practices. The sustainable competitive advantage can be achieved by organizations with the adopting of the CSR orientation. It is also vital that it has proper definition and being understood correctly. Additionally, the proceedings of the CSR literature review have been in four sections. The methodology is discussed with respect to the explanation as to the reason for which content analysis is used in analyzing the CSR literature.

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  1. Barone, M. J., Miyazaki, A. D. and Taylor, K. A. (2000) “The influence of cause-related marketing on consumer choice: does one good turn deserve another?”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28, 248–262.
  2. Bowen, H. R. (1953) Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, New York: Harper and Row.
  3. Carroll, A. B. (1979) “A Three Dimensional Conceptual Model of Corporate Social Performance,” Academy of Management Review, 4, 497-505.
  4. Carroll, A. B. (1999) “Corporate Social Responsibility: Evolution of a Definitional Construct,” Business and Society, 38 (September), 268-295.
  5. Caruana, R. and Crane, A. (2011) “Getting away from it all: exploring freedom in tourism”, Annals of Tourism Research, 38 (4): 1495-1515.
  6. Cronbach, L. (1971) “Sustainability Entrepreneurship: Design Principles, Processes, and Paradigms”, Cheater 4 Research design: strategy, data, and analysis.[Online]Available: [2010-05-01]
  7. Donaldson, T., and Preston, L. (1995) “The Stakeholder Theory of the Corporation: Concepts, evidence and Implications”, Academy of Management Review, 20, (1) p. 65-91.
  8. Ellen, P. S., Webb, D. J., and Mohr, L. A. (2006) “Building Corporate Associations: Consumer Attributions for Corporate Social Responsibility Programs?”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34 (2), 147-157.
  9. Hopkins, M. (2003) The Planetary Bargain, London: Earthscan.
  10. Maak, T., Pless N. M. (2006) Responsible Leadership: A Relational Approach. In: Maak Th., Pless N.M. (eds) Responsible Leadership. Routledge, London, New York.
  11. Maignan, I. and Ferrell, O. C. (2004) “Corporate social responsibility and marketing: an integrative framework”, The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32(1).
  12. Matten, D. and Crane, A. (2005) “Corporate Citizenship: Toward an extended theoretical conceptualization”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 30(1), 166-179.
  13. Porter, M. E. and Kramer, M. R. (2003) “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy”[Online]Available:[2010-05-01].

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