There is little doubt that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gained in importance over the last decade leading firms to develop increasingly sophisticated CSR strategies for their organizations. The challenges facing managers are nothing short of daunting given the vast number of issues that fall under the rubric of CSR and the equally large number of often conflicting groups pressuring companies to be more socially responsible. The situation is even more complex for large and well-known multinational enterprises (MNEs) with operations that often span the globe and expose the organization to a wide range of economic, social, development and political conditions.
To help managers deal with this complexity, researchers in the CSR area have focused their efforts on the ‘corporate side’ of CSR with studies examining issues such as the relationship between CSR and financial performance, the different strategic and governance configurations to best deploy CSR initiatives, or the emergence of corporate philanthropy, among others. This focus on the corporation is sensible given that CSR emerged as a field of study to investigate the response of organizations to the demands of civil society.
However, a number of researchers have argued that consumers play a critical role and are a driving force behind the emergence of CSR programmes. This view posits that organizations have implemented CSR primarily as a response to consumer pressure, either actual or potential.