Faculty Publications

Moral CSR

Document Type



constructive warrants, corporate social responsibility (CSR), CSR memes, injunctive warrants, moral CSR (CSRM)

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Business and Society





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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is about the moral purpose of business and its proper relationship to society. We map the logical structure of CSR—its canonical core—and identify the view of CSR that is most consistent with CSR as driven by moral purpose as Moral CSR (CSRM). The numerous perspectives of CSR, which we term CSR memes, are complements to CSRM. A meme is an idea or usage diffusing within communities. Moral norms and what we term normatively injunctive warrants are implicit in many CSR memes but have received a relative lack of explicit and systematic attention. A norm is an accepted standard for behavior. A warrant is an authoritative or authorizing instruction for behavior. All CSR memes contain three elements—a corporate actor, a relation, and nonmoral normative warrants, which we term constructive warrants. We argue that any CSR meme should include a fourth element—moral normative (injunctive) warrants linking explicitly to moral reasoning. Through sorting key CSR memes by their epistemological and compositional characteristics, we reveal the paucity of explicit attention to injunctive warrants. We resort memes according to social gains or losses, which are the outcomes of societal demand for and business supply of CSR. This analysis yields two proposed improvements for CSR reasoning. The first is a clearer picture of variable use of the term CSR in extant research. The second is how scholars can incorporate more explicitly moral elements of CSR in future work.


Department of Management

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