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Institutional Linkages with the State and Organizational Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility: Evidence from China

  • Jianhua Ge (a1) and Wei Zhao (a2) (a3)

To deepen our understanding of organizations’ heterogeneous responses to institutional demand, we develop a ‘relational complexity’ argument to highlight organizations’ diverse institutional linkages as another important source of practice variation. We argue that diverse relations between organizations and the institutional authority can filter distinct institutional pressures and expectations, shape organizational interpretations of environmental demands, and thus trigger heterogeneous organizational practices. We adopt this theoretical framework and distinguish two types of institutional linkages with the state to understand different adoption patterns in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in its early stage of diffusion in China. Based on a national survey dataset consisting of 1,268 firms, our analyses show that firms having a stronger bureaucratic linkage with the state tend to focus on more visible external-oriented CSR practices. In contrast, those firms forming a closer partnership with the state through political or semi-political associations are more likely to take more extensive adoptions by further developing internal CSR structures. This study enriches the institutional analyses by shifting our attention to the relational dynamics between organizations and institutional authority as a key source of practice variation. It also has important implications to the research and practices of CSR in emerging economies.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Jianhua Ge (
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Management and Organization Review
  • ISSN: 1740-8776
  • EISSN: 1740-8784
  • URL: /core/journals/management-and-organization-review
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