PurposeRevisiting Carroll’s classic corporate social responsibility (CSR) pyramid framework, this paper aims to evolve a novel synthesis of ethics and economics. This yielded an “integrative CSR economics”.Design/methodology/approachThis theory paper examined how to conceptually set up CSR theory, argue its ethical nature and establish its practical, social and empirical relevance. Economic analysis reached out from contemporary institutional economics to Smith’s classic studies.FindingsThe paper reconstructed all of Carroll’s four dimensions of CSR – economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities – through economics. The paper discounted a core assumption of much CSR research that economic approach to CSR, including the instrumental, strategic “business case” approach to CSR, were unethical and lacked any foundations in ethics theory. Integrative CSR economics reframes research on viability and capability requirements for CSR practice; redirecting empirical research on links between CSP (corporate social performance) and CFP (corporate financial performance).Research limitations/implicationsThe paper focused on Carroll as the leading champion of CSR research. Future research needs to align other writers with integrative CSR economics. Friedman or Freeman, or the historic contributions of Dodd, Mayo, Bowen or Drucker, are especially interesting.Practical implicationsThe paper set out how integrative CSR economics satisfies the “business case” approach to CSR and develops practical implications along: a systemic dimension of the market economy; a legal-constitutional dimension; and the dimension of market exchanges.Social implicationsIntegrative CSR economics creates ethical benefits for society along: a systemic dimension of the market (mutual gains); a legal-constitutional dimension (law-following); and the dimension of market exchange (ethical capital creation). Social benefits are not only aspired to but also are achievable as a business case approach to CSR is followed.Originality/valueThe paper’s main contribution is a new synthesis of economics and ethics that yields an “integrative CSR economics”.
Social Responsibility Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 3, 2019
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