Book Chapter

Corporate social responsibility and HRD: Uneasy tensions and future directions


Fenwick T (2014) Corporate social responsibility and HRD: Uneasy tensions and future directions. In: Chalofsky N, Rocco T & Morris M (eds.) Handbook of Human Resource Development. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 164-180.

This chapter tackles the rhetoric of CSR, arguing that we might better treat this as a range of discourses than as an altruistic position or set of practices. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a subset of business responsibility has evolved into a highly heterogeneous and contested set of values and positions (Fenwick 2007, 2011). CSR is often understood as an ethical commitment by business to respond to a ‘triple bottom line’ of social and environmental concerns as well as economic goals of sustainability. The social in corporate SR refers to non-shareholding stakeholders that may include local or even global communities, government, customers, and interest groups ranging from environmental to religious, ethnic, and trade groups (Crowther and Rayman-Bacchus 2004). Practices associated with CSR may include transparent accountability, respecting ethical values, improving human quality of life in endeavors affected by the business, preserving natural environments, supporting local community endeavors (Fenwick 2007, Whitehouse 2006).  One key tension, particularly evident in the uptake of CSR ideals in HRD practice, has been confusion between rhetoric and activities about the actual purposes for adopting CSR (Fenwick 2007). Exacerbating this has been the variety of ideologies and ethical perspectives called into play in the name of social responsibility (Whitehourse 2006).  Another tension has been confusion about just where in the organisation, and with what accountabilities, CSR activity is supposed to happen (Fenwick and Bierema 2008).  A third is the ubiquitous tension among the different stakeholders that CSR is meant to serve (Fenwick 2011). Recently, some have challenged CSR to go even further to foster global responsibility (Berthoin Antal and Sobczak 2004) and social justice, and debates now focus on the distinctions, and relative significance, of CSR and global responsibility as instances of business ethics and practices of sustainability (Bergsteiner & Avery 2010) In an age when some have charged there to be a crisis of responsibility in organisations ranging from banks and universities to food processing and oil extraction plants, these have become pressing issues for all those leading organisational development and change.  For HRD in particular, the call is to create a clear model for its own practices with respect to CSR and global responsibility, and to develop specific approaches to foster learning about CSR practices within organisations as well as in curricula for HRD practitioners. This chapter draws from published studies of CSR practices to present an overview of the practices, positions and tensions of CSR with respect to HRD. The chapter offers principles and recommendations to help develop models for future practices in organisations and in HRD education.

corporate social responsibility; globalisation; discourses of CSR

Publication date31/07/2014
Publisher URL…-1118454022.html
Place of publicationNew York