Working with CSR in Brazilian companies

“Working with CSR in Brazilian companies: The Role of Managers’ Values in the Maintenance of Culture”, by Fernanda Duarte. Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 96, Number 3, Pages 355-368. Spring 2010

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to the duty of management to consider and respond to issues beyond the organisation’s economic and legal requirements, in line with social and environmental values.  However “management” is real people responsible for making decisions and formulating and implementing policies.

Duarte interviewed CSR managers from three Brazilian companies (a global mining corporation, a government energy company and a non-profit foundation, delivering CSR programs for a major steel and mining manufacturer).  She argues that the personal values of managers contribute to the creation and maintenance of CSR cultures within their organisations.

Brazil has a well established CSR tradition.  Brazilian companies have the highest number of International Organisation of Standardization (ISO) certifications across all nations in the Americas.  They also lead the way in the publication of reports in line with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards. 

Duarte shows there is a growing body of work that establishes a link between the personal values of managers and the development of ethical frameworks.  CSR performance can be a result of “championing” by a few managers based on their personal values and beliefs.  These values can be expressed when the individual has the opportunity to make decisions or act in a given situation.  Hence individual managers are able to ‘make a difference’ in an organisation. 

The study highlights a number of themes that resonate with existing research on the role of individual and organisation values in the context of CSR.  The data supports the proposition that values are pivotal elements of company cultures because of their role in articulating the organisation’s philosophy, identity and image.  The participating managers consistently portrayed their companies as socially and environmentally responsible organisations that managed to successfully balance economic imperatives with sustainability-related activities.  They also acknowledged the importance of the ‘tone from the top’ – the extent to which CSR is perceived to be championed by corporate leaders – in the development of successful CSR programs.  There was also general agreement that the personal values of managers play a significant role in the development of CSR frameworks.

The study also suggests that managers supported the need for their companies to be involved in transformative CSR initiatives that address the causes of poverty and disadvantage within those societies, rather than providing remedial assistance. This is particularly so for those companies with negative social and environment impacts in developing nations.

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