Corporate social responsibility as a vehicle for negotiating and navigating private sector development partnerships: benefits and risks in practice
David Bek (Coventry University)
Paper short abstract:
The role of CSR as a discourse and practice for driving, as well as limiting, partnerships for development, is the focus of this paper. Drawing on empirical work in horticultural and mega-event supply chains, we evaluate the benefits and risks from such partnerships framed in terms of CSR.
Paper long abstract:
This paper considers the role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a discourse and practice for driving, as well as limiting, partnerships for development. Given the ever increasing penetration of CSR as a conduit for development initiatives in the Global South, it is vital that critical analysis is applied to the activities of the CSR profession within development practice. We consider the role of CSR in negotiating and navigating private sector partnerships for development. Drawing on empirical work in horticultural and mega-event supply chains, we evaluate the benefits and risks from such partnerships framed in terms of CSR. Examples we draw upon include: (i) a multi-stakeholder partnership between Marks and Spencer, the Shell Foundation and a South African conservation NGO which led to the initiation of a 'sustainable' cut-flower supply chain; and (ii) multi-stakeholder initiatives to promote positive CSR development legacies from the 2010 World Cup and the London 2012 Olympic Games. From these cases, we draw out the benefits to be gained by utilising CSR as a frame for business involvement in development work, as well as the risks involved due to power imbalances between business, the state and civil society. Our analysis shows that the potential value of CSR as a development tool is constrained by an over-focus on gaining a corporate licence to operate within the Global South and by the dominance of corporate versions of the CSR agenda and practice.
Partnerships in practice: power and inequality in development partnerships with the private sector