Sub-theme 16: Critical Perspectives on Management Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Bobby Banerjee
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Thomas Klikauer
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Hervé Corvellec
Lund University, Sweden

Call for Papers

This sub-theme aims to bring together scholars who share an interest in management ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The goal of this sub-theme is not to promote more of the same standard, positivist, functional and managerial approaches to management ethics and CSR but to critically deconstruct and reconstruct the study of management ethics and CSR. The sub-theme seeks to highlight fundamental weaknesses of conventional approaches to CSR in its fixation with win-win situations and seemingly endless empirical studies that attempt to link CSR and organizational ethical behavior with financial performance. Despite more than forty years of research, the relationships between management ethics, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and financial performance remain ambiguous. Research on management ethics and CSR often share similar literatures, theoretical frameworks and normative assumptions such as (mainly mainstream) concerns about profitability, social welfare but the two areas have not really engaged with each other.

There also appears to be a divergence between empirical approaches that focus on describing ethical behaviors of firms and managers and normative approaches that focus on how managers and firms should behave. Thus, empirical approaches have been preoccupied with demonstrating a relationship between ethical behaviors and financial performance while the normative justifications of management ethics and CSR have attempted to integrate insights from primarily Western philosophies of ethics such as utilitarianism, justice, social contracts, and economic morality. However, management ethics and CSR tend to maintain and reinforce managerial hegemonies while remaining subservient to corporate and market interests. This sub-theme aims at encouraging scholars to reflect on the philosophical, theoretical and methodological aspects of the engagement between CSR and management ethics. Such an engagement should lead to a critical re-assembling of dominant paradigms of CSR and ethics in an attempt to challenge managerial and corporate hegemony and critically construct the relationship of management ethics and CSR.

But a critique of dominant paradigms is by itself not sufficient. After critically disassembling management ethics and CSR there is a need to re-imagine and reassemble our conceptions of CSR and management ethics directed towards emancipation and positive social change. This involves the creation of novel and critical insights on the role management ethics and CSR play within the framework of managerialism and profitability. The sub-theme also focuses on the role management ethics and CSR plays in maintaining and enhancing asymmetrical power relations at the organizational and institutional levels.

Discourses of management ethics and CSR are also primarily rooted in traditions of Western thought, which tend to dehistoricize and marginalize non-Western perspectives while reproducing asymmetrical relations of power. CSR is often used, especially in developing regions of the world, as a smokescreen to conceal the deleterious effects of business activity. In recent years we have seen increasing anti-corporate protests, environmental conflicts, struggles for social and environmental justice and the rise of resistance and social movements in different parts of the world. Civil society actors, Indigenous groups, women’s groups actively engage with corporations, institutions and governments in an attempt to voice local concerns about development, environmental destruction and social dislocation. This sub-theme invites papers that provide alternative cultural perspectives, epistemologies, subjectivities and modes of representation of management ethics and CSR. We welcome theoretical and empirical submissions inspired by a diverse range of methodologies, from any multi- and inter-disciplinary perspectives. Submissions should address (but are not limited to) the following or related questions:

  • What are the discursive assumptions and practices that create particular meanings, policies and practices of management ethics and CSR?
  • How do practices of management ethics and CSR relate to each other, for example do they support each other, contradict one another, neutralize each other, or protect one from the other?
  • What are the outcomes of CSR and ethical policies for communities and society in general?
  • How are management ethics and CSR deployed at the institutional level? How do policies and practices of multilateral organizations like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank and the like shape discourses of management ethics and CSR?
  • How can we critically evaluate ethics and CSR reporting in accounting practices?
  • How are local and indigenous communities engaging with CSR practices?
  • What are the range of local, regional, national, international and global governance practices of CSR and management ethics? How is accountability established in CSR and management ethics?
  • How have management ethics and CSR been used, misused, and abused to support the prevailing managerial paradigm (e.g. through an objectification, instrumentalization and operationalization of morale and ethics)?
  • How do management ethics and CSR serve as reinforcing discourses that maintain and reinforce asymmetrical power relations at the organizational and institutional levels?
  • How have management ethics and CSR become communicative tools to determine realities for stakeholders?
  • How do management ethics and CSR articulate individual and corporate responsibility?
  • How can management ethics and CSR be applied as an emancipatory tool to overcome organizational asymmetries enshrined in managerialism?

Participants are encouraged to contact the convenors to discuss possible contributions.


Bobby Banerjee 
Thomas Klikauer 
Hervé Corvellec