2011/13 LEM Working Paper Series

The impact of business on society: exploring CRS adoption and alleged human rights abuses by large corporations

Davide Fiaschi, Elisa Giuliani
Corporate Social Responsibility, Alleged Human Rights Abuses; Panel Data.

  JEL Classifications:
M14; K40; F23; C23

Management research on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focuses almost exclusively on the impact of CSR on profitability or corporate value. A largely neglected question is whether CSR impacts positively on society. We address this gap in the literature by exploring the relationship between CSR adoption (as reflected by corporate declarations to adopt CSR policies) and corporate involvement in alleged human rights abuses. Using information on 140 large advanced country corporations, we find that there is a relationship between CSR and alleged human rights abuses, but that the nature of this relationship varies according to the type of abuse: firms that declare to be CSR-adopters appear less likely to be involved than non-adopters in the worst of the abuses (i.e. jus cogens abuses), but more likely than non-adopters to be involved in other types of "less serious" abuse (i.e. no-jus cogens abuses). Also, over time, the adoption of CSR reduces corporate involvement in direct abuses allegedly committed by management, or by a subsidiary, but not indirect abuses allegedly committed by complicit third parties (e.g. suppliers, clients, etc.). Our analyses contribute to the theory on the impact of business on society and have some normative implications for corporate abuses of human rights.

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