Institutionalizing idealism: the adoption of CSR practices

Adrian Haberberg, Jonathan Gander, Alison Rieple, Clive Helm, Juan-Ignacio Martin-Castella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss the idiosyncratic features of the adoption and institutionalization of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.

Design/methodology/approach: This is a conceptual paper in which current theory on the institutionalization of practices within organizational fields is extended. This is achieved through considering how well established models of the institutionalization process accommodate the idiosyncrasies of CSR practices.

Findings: Established models of the institutionalization process do not properly account for the patterns of CSR adoption that are identified. This is because CSR has some features that differentiates it from other organizational initiatives, including idealism, delayed discovery of instrumental benefits, public attention, and the tension between public and private logics.

Research limitations/implications: This is a conceptual paper which now needs to be explored empirically, either at the level of the CSR practice or at the organizational field. It is believed that a detailed examination is warranted of the effects of the truncated adoption process (a coercive bandwagon) on organizations' adoption of CSR practices. Neither has it been considered whether all categories of CSR practices are subject to the same dynamics or development path.

Practical implications: It is argued that prizes and regulations that are introduced before the organizational case has been worked through properly can have a negative effect on the adoption of beneficial practices throughout the wider field. Similarly, accusations of greenwashing of firms who implement CSR prematurely, and the negative publicity that results, can result in the valuable ideals of CSR being operationalised in a sub‐optimal form.

Originality/value: The paper offers a new conceptualisation of the path of the institutionalization of CSR practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-381
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Global Responsibility
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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