Existing scholarly work on corporate social responsibility (CSR) frequently emphasizes either normative/ethical claims about social progress or instrumental/strategic claims about corporate effectiveness, yet less often acknowledges the moral conditions of those undertaking CSR within a specific cultural context. In this paper, we draw attention to the social conditions in which CSR takes place and the related ethics of the subjects that must enact it. Our approach is to document the lived experiences of practitioners in Romania, a post-communist society. Drawing from fifty-three depth interviews with both corporate responsibility practitioners, and managers in non-profit organizations who together work on CSR projects, we describe their experiences of the social and organizational environment, the CSR practices that are undertaken in this context, and the intended and unintended consequences of such work. Using Bauman’s theorization of ethics, including adiaphora and moral distancing, and Borţun’s interpretation of Romanianness, we then theorize liquid CSR as an ambivalence between adiaphoric practice (instrumental morality, careerism and self-interest) and the moral impulse to do good, resulting in both intended (short-term promotion and competitive victimhood) and unintended consequences (a potential for corruption and collateral beneficiaries).
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We wish to thank editors Thomas Steger, Anna Soulsby and Anna Remišová and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful, helpful and enriching commentary. We have presented our work to academics at a paper development workshop organised at the University of Regensburg, and we would like to kindly acknowledge the valuable feedback received from all participants. We also thank Barry Richards, Kevin Moloney and Nada Kakabadse for their feedback on earlier drafts.
© 2021, The Author(s).
- Corporate social responsibility
- Liquid modernity
- Zygmunt Bauman
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management
- Business, Management and Accounting(all)
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Economics and Econometrics