Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives Across the Value Chain

Date01 May 2016
Published date01 May 2016
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (
DOI 10.1002/jcaf.22161
This article was originally published in Volume 24, Number 3 of The Journal of Corporate Accounting and Finance.
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (
DOI 10.1002/jcaf.21840
Dennis Caplan, Saurav K. Dutta, and Raef A. Lawson
Corporate social
ity (CSR) has
become essential for
the long-term viability
of businesses (Dutta,
Lawson, & Marcinko,
2010). CSR initiatives
are critical for compa-
nies, although the ben-
efits are often difficult
to quantify. This senti-
ment is exemplified
by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman,
in his CSR report: “… for those
things which we find hard to put
a price on—biodiversity, carbon,
natural capital—the market has
failed us.” Essentially, this view
requires companies to critically
evaluate their roles and explore
ways to further corporate objec-
tives in this domain.
Value chain analysis (Porter,
1985), as discussed below, is
widely recognized as a use-
ful management framework for
exploring strategies to further
a corporation’s economic goals
and to evaluate its economic
risks. Dutta and Lawson (2008)
explored the impact of the car-
bon footprint through the value
chain on management decisions.
In this article, we extend that
approach to analyze CSR efforts
undertaken by large corpora-
tions. These efforts may not be
confined to the organization, but
can extend upstream to suppliers
or downstream to customers. An
analysis and comparison of such
efforts across companies and
industries can provide insight
into how various industries and
companies prioritize their social
objectives and the mechanisms
they believe are best suited to
achieve these goals. Such an
analysis aids in setting bench-
marks and best practices within
and across industries. Further, it
enables stakeholders to evaluate
financial implications of corpo-
rate strategy on CSR and thereby
assess the management type and
consequent regulatory actions
(Dutta, Lawson, & Marcinko,
An organization
that limits its CSR
initiatives to efforts
undertaken within the
organization may not
be fully exploiting its
stature, power, and
influence to encour-
age and coordinate
such initiatives across
the value chain for
greater social good.
This article studies
the CSR initiatives of prominent
companies in four industries:
Computers and electronics
Food and beverage
Oil and gas
We examine the instances
where CSR efforts extend
beyond organizational boundar-
ies and involve both upstream
and downstream partners. Our
sample includes companies that
are global leaders in their indus-
tries and based in Europe, Asia,
and the United States.
Corporate engagement with
CSR efforts is occurring at the
highest levels of corporate lead-
ership. The CEOs of most For-
tune 500 companies address CSR
in their letters to stakeholders
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than
an altruistic ideal: It is increasingly considered a
business imperative that should help drive organi-
zational strategy. This article explores how compa-
nies manage their CSR efforts along their upstream
and downstream value chains, documenting dif-
ferences across industries and between U.S. and
foreign organizations.
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Initiatives Across the Value Chain
JCAF21840.indd 15 2/12/13 7:28:24 PM

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