Volume 25, 2014
Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting
Corporate Social Responsibility: Defining the Societal Dimension
This paper addresses the 2014 conference theme in aiming to define the “societal” dimension. The key finding is that society is a vague and contestable term. A societal dimension maintains CSR against reductionoriented substitutes such as corporate responsibility, corporate citizenship, and stakeholder theory. Literature
suggests five conceptions. (1) Society might be decomposed into external stakeholders of a firm with differing salience. (2) Another approach is internal to the firm: managers have pro-CSR or anti-CSR values shaping salience. (3) A third approach combines external and internal considerations: all stakeholders pressure top management. (4) Society is an aggregation of interests possessing theoretically informed prioritization independent of relative power and of specific stakeholder status. (5) Public policy is not necessarily reflective of society in either the prioritization sense or a general will sense, but might reflect bare majority opinion exercised through governmental arrangements. A hybrid solution combines virtuous managers and external controls.