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Embedded Versus Peripheral Corporate Social Responsibility: Psychological Foundations



We propose a new conceptualization to make sense of the vast and diverse body of work regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR): (a) embedded CSR and (b) peripheral CSR. This distinction relies on psychological foundations originating primarily in industrial–organizational psychology and related fields (i.e., organizational behavior, human resource management) and allows for a better understanding of when and why CSR is likely to lead to positive outcomes for employees, organizations, and society. Embedded CSR involves an organization's core competencies and integrates CSR within a firm's strategy, routines, and operations, and therefore affects all employees. In contrast, peripheral CSR focuses on activities that are not integrated into an organization's strategy, routines, and operations (e.g., philanthropy, volunteering). We use our conceptualization to explain the success of CSR initiatives at GE, IBM, and Intel, and to reinterpret the scholarly CSR literature in the fields of marketing, corporate governance and legal studies, and economics. We also describe how our conceptualization can help bridge the much lamented micro–macro and science–practice gaps and helps guide future CSR research as well as organizational interventions.