The Paradox of Corporate Social Responsibility Standards

Simone de Colle, Adrian Henriques, Saras Sarasvathy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The purpose of this paper is to provide a constructive criticism of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards. After pointing out a number of benefits and limitations in the effectiveness of CSR standards, both from a theoretical point of view and in the light of empirical evidence, we formulate and discuss a Paradox of CSR standards: despite being well-intended, CSR standards can favor the emergence of a thoughtless, blind and blinkered mindset which is counterproductive of their aim of enhancing the social responsibility of the organization. We analyze three problems that might underlie the Paradox—namely the problem of deceptive measurements; the problem of responsibility erosion and the problem of blinkered culture. We apply the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism to reflect on these issues in relation to different types of existing standards, and conclude by suggesting a number of considerations that could help both CSR standards developers and users to address the Paradox.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)177-191
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Oct 21 2014


    • American pragmatism
    • Corporate accountability standards
    • Corporate social responsibility
    • CSR Standards
    • ISO26000
    • Paradox

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business and International Management
    • General Business, Management and Accounting
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Law


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