Three tiers of CSR: an instructive means of understanding and guiding contemporary company approaches to CSR?

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Abstract

Heightened concern with global issues has led to shifts in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. To capture the distinct nature of this global focus, researchers have developed a three-generation CSR typology. In this paper, we first evaluate the usefulness of this typology for understanding corporate approaches to CSR by examining how several companies position themselves thematically in CEO introductions to sustainability reports. On the basis of this, we then evaluate the practical value of this typology for assisting those who work with CSR strategy. The analysis revealed expressions of all three CSR generations, with third-generation thinking being apparent, but not dominant. It also verified that the three-generation CSR typology can be an instructive means of both evaluating as well as framing a company's approach to sustainability, though with modifications. On the basis of the identified strengths and weaknesses of the typology, we develop a practitioner-focused, three-tiered model that can strategically guide the development of CSR programs.

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