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Abstract

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly being promoted as an instrument for global governance to address the regulatory vacuum surrounding transnational business activities and as a method for encouraging business to contribute to sustainable development at the national level. Originally a business-driven, American concept, CSR has now been adopted and promoted by a wide range of governments and multilateral institutions. However, the socio-political model underlying CSR is far from neutral and may conflict with existing models in the societies in which it is introduced. In this article a typology of possible governmental interpretations of CSR is developed, and how CSR is transformed and adapted in its meeting with Nordic governments in order to fit the “Nordic Model” of state-market-society relations is analyzed. The analysis suggests that pre-existing political-economic institutions and cultural norms deeply affect the interpretation of CSR, and that this, when combined with ongoing national political processes, leads to a highly transformed concept of CSR.