Unions and Decisionistic-Restricted Involvement in the CSR Debate – An Explanation to a Cooperative Approach

Nataniel Zemla


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies the responsibility of companies
for sustainable management in economic, ecological and social terms. The
majority of CSR works in science and research were written primarily with the
focus on ethics (moral vs. market economy), bearer of responsibility (state vs.
companies) and management (e.g. best practice, manuals). This article comes
from the perspective of a stakeholder group that is constantly mentioned but
receive insufficient attention: unions. Research indicated early on that unions
leaned back in the European CSR-debate since its beginning 2001. Based on the
case of German unions, the author will analyse their motivation by studying their
statements. The systematic literature review provides the basis for his qualitative
content analysis of reasonable motives. The results show the unions encountering
a complex environment with diverse interests, in which it is difficult to position
themselves. Furthermore CSR requirements placed on companies were considered,
by economy, to be set very high. Although CSR is not driven by legal regulations, it
unfolds quasi-binding rules. For those reasons, it is not surprising that unions were
sceptical and restrictive. With its analysis of a defensive CSR strategy, the study
contributes to progress in the field of engagement in international debates. The
author deals in a theoretical-conceptual way with the existing research results
in this field, invalidates them and presents his own attempt with explanation.
His explanatory approach extends the existing explanatory patterns by a new
perspective for the problem described.


corporate social responsibility, unions, industrial relations, CSR debate in EU, CSR actors

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