The role of political institutions in corporate social responsibility : the case of the Norwegian government and the shipping industry

Erdal, Mari (2014-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Since the rise of the modern corporation in the late 19th century, the debate on the relationship between business and society has flourished, and the negative impact of businesses became evident as the number and scale of large corporations increased. As a result of the globalization of trade and economic activity, regulating and auditing multinational companies have become both more important and more problematic. Along with the new challenges to be met by companies operating in foreign countries, these factors have resulted in a greater demand for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Originating as an Anglo-American management idea, CSR has spread and become a well-established tool for businesses worldwide. In today’s global capitalist system, characterized by open markets, it is widely acknowledged that it is the role of the state to establish the preconditions for the proper functioning of markets by defining legal rules, establishing enforcement bodies, and providing public goods. However, many corporations choose to go beyond the required regulatory levels and voluntarily engage in CSR. Studies of CSR have long been dominated by business and economic scholars, usually with the aim to confirming or denying CSR as a tool for profit-maximization, and until the last decade, social and political scientists have shown little interest in CSR. From a political science view, the relation between the state, markets and corporations is of interest, but few studies have investigated how political institutions influence corporate behavior. This study has therefore researched the institutional determinants of CSR by analyzing the efforts and the role of the Norwegian government in promoting CSR in the shipping industry. The White Paper on CSR was used as guide to the government’s approach to CSR, and was analyzed in light of the specific CSR challenges faced in the shipping industry. For this purpose, a qualitative methodology and case study research design was adopted to provide in-depth information. New institutional theory and comparative political economy provided the theoretical framework for the study, and helped in answering the main research question: What is the role of the Norwegian government, as a political institution, in promoting CSR in the Norwegian shipping industry? as well as the sub-questions. The study identified both strengths and weaknesses in the government’s role as CSR promoter, and argued that the predominantly international focus of the White Paper is suitable for globally oriented industries, like shipping, while reducing its relevance for nationally oriented firms. The study further found that the government as institution provides the industry with CSR incentives, other than financial ones, as it sets the standards for what is perceived as modern and just corporate behavior. In addition, CSR in the shipping industry was found to take an explicit form, and to reflect the national institutional environment. The findings stand in contrast to the way in which the above-mentioned theories expect CSR to take shape in coordinated market economies. In broader sense, the findings affect the perception of the relationship between CSR as a management tool and strategy, and CSR as a political and regulatory tool that may be used actively by authorities.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sedert die opkoms van die moderne korporasie in die laat 19de eeu, het die debat oor die verhouding tussen besigheid en samelewing floreer terwyl die negatiewe impak van besighede sigbaar geword het soos die aantal en omvang van groot korporasies toegeneem het. As gevolg van die globalisering van handel en ekonomiese aktiwiteit, het die regulerende en multinasionale ouditeringsmaatskappye beide belangrik en meer problematies geword. Tesame met die nuwe uitdagings wat maatskappye in vreemde lande moet ontmoet, het hierdie faktore aanleiding gegee tot ‘n groter vraag na korporatiewe sosiale verantwoordelikheid (KSV). KSV het sy oorsprong as ‘n Anglo-Amerikaanse bestuursidee gehad en het ‘n goed gevestigde hulpmiddel vir besighede wêreldwyd geword terwyl dit ook versprei het. In vandag se globale kapitalistiese sisteem wat deur oop markte gekenmerk word, word dit wydverspreid erken dat dit die rol van die staat is om voorwaardes vir die behoorlike funksionering van markte te vestig deur regsreëls te definieer, handhawingsliggame te vestig en publieke goedere te verskaf. Baie korporasies verkies egter om verder as die vereiste regulerende vlakke en vrywillige deelname in KSV te gaan. Studies van die KSV is vir lank oorheers deur besigheid- en ekonomiese geleerdes wat gewoonlik die doel gehad het om die KSV te bevestig of te ontken as ‘n hulpmiddel vir wins-maksimalisering, en tot en met die laaste dekade het sosiale en politieke wetenskaplikes min belangstelling in die KSV getoon. Uit die Politieke Wetenskaplike oogpunt is die verhouding tussen die staat, markte en korporasies van belang terwyl min studies al ondersoek het hoe politieke instellings korporatiewe gedrag beïnvloed. Hierdie studie het dus die bepalende faktore van die KSV nagevors deur die pogings en die rol van die Noorweegse regering in die bevordering van KSV in die skeepsvaart te analiseer. Die Witskrif op KSV is gebruik as ‘n gids vir die regering se benadering tot die KSV, en is ontleed in die lig van die spesifieke KSV uitdagings wat in die seevaart industrie in die gesig gestaar word. Vir hierdie doeleinde is ‘n kwalitatiewe metodologie en gevallestudie navorsingsontwerp aangeneem om in-diepte inligting te verskaf. Nuwe institusionele teorie en vergelykende politieke ekonomie het die teoretiese raamwerk vir die studie verskaf en het gehelp in die beantwoording van die hoof navorsingsvraag: Wat is die rol van die Noorweegse regering, as ‘n politieke instelling, in die bevordering van KSV in die Noorweegse seevaart industrie? Sowel as die sub-vrae. Hierdie studie het beide sterkpunte en swakpunte in die regering se role as KSV promotor identifiseer en het geargumenteer dat die oorwegende internasionale fokus van die Wit Skrif geskik is vir globaal georiënteerde industrieë soos seevaart, terwyl die toepaslikheid van nasionaal oriënteerde firmas verminder is. Die studie het verder bevind dat die regering as instelling KSV insentiewe aan die industrie anders as finansiële verskaf het, deur dat dit die standaarde stel vir wat gesien word as moderne en regverdige korporatiewe gedrag. Daar is verder bevind dat die KSV ‘n eksplesiete vorm aangeneem het in die seevaart industrie om die nasionale institusionele omgewing te vertoon. Die bevindings staan egter in teenstelling tot die manier waarop die bogenoemde teorieë van die KSV verwag om vorm aan te neem in gekoördineerde mark ekonomieë. In die breër sin beïnvloed die bevindings die siening van die verhouding tussen KSV as ‘n bestuur hulpmiddel en strategie en KSV as ‘n politieke en regulerende hulpmiddel wat aktief deur owerhede gebruik kan word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96057
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