Does Corporate Responsibility Pay Off?1
Background: “why, what and what for”
What policy backgroundmotivated thisstudy? What corporate backgroundshaped thisstudy? Which researchquestionsguided this study? Which researchmethodology has been applied?
In a globalized economy, CSR is often claimed as a uniqueproposition of Europe’s businesses to gain and sustain competitiveadvantages. If it could be proven that responsibility pays off, astrong push for dissemination of good CSR practices could beexpected and CSR policies that focus on voluntary instead of command and control would be encouraged.As other studies have shown, many CSR measures are not wellconnected to the main strategic decisions of a company and do notaddress its main societal and environmental impacts. Linking CSRwith competitiveness could foster the dissemination of a morestrategic approach to CSR.While in many publications a positive effect of CSR oncompetitiveness is assumed, there is no empirically proven evidencethat this positive effect always exists. Scientific findings are diverseand sometimes contradicting. The key objective of this study was tofind and describe the links between CSR and competitiveness in thechemical, textile
and construction sectors and to draw conclusionsfor public CSR policies and sectoral CSR initiatives.Whilst many other studies are based on CSR reports, sustainabilityindexes or case studies, this study exploits the knowledge of sectoralexperts from trade unions and business associations across Europe.As the links between CSR and competitiveness were not well-knownin advance, we followed an approach of hypothesis generating,conducted 45 telephone interviews and accompanied three sector-specific CSR initiatives during a two-year-period of research.
Findings: “Similarities, differences and problems faced”
What drives andshapesresponsiblecompetitiveness?
At first sight, a number of similarities between the three sectors couldbe found: high importance of low production costs and, on the otherhand, niche market strategies for high end products. However, thedriving forces of competitiveness strongly differ from sector to sector.The chemical industry is driven by innovation and the challenges of responsibly handling dangerous substances. The constructions sectorhas to balance an enormous pressure for low costs on the one handand societal demands on the other. The textile sector is shaped byglobal competition, leaving two main market niches for Europeanmanufacturers: industrial textiles and high-end fashion.
In designing and implementing future CSR initiatives, a sectorspecific approach should take the different “rules of thegame” into account and address the different competitivenessissues and societal demands regarding the respective sector.
We included the textile and clothing sector, for better readability we refer to this sector as the textile sector.