Sub-theme 10: (SWG) Corporate Responsibility and Irresponsibility

Steen Vallentin
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Guido Palazzo
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Andreas Georg Scherer
University of Zurich, Switzerland

Call for Papers

The 2016 sub-theme of the Standing Working Group 10 on "The Changing Role of Business in Global Society" focuses on the causes and effects of corporate irresponsibility. The key research aim is to better understand what constitutes corporate irresponsibility, to explore how it is facilitated or impeded by institutional, organizational or individual factors, and to analyze the results of irresponsible behaviour. We want to look at the supply and demand side of irresponsible behaviour and touch upon a variety of economic, political, social, and environmental issues in this regard.

The debate on CSR seems to increasingly concentrate on what is perceived as irresponsible business practices: human rights violations, corruption, environmental scandals or incidents of complicity with criminal individuals or illegal organizations, to name but a few. It has become apparent that corporate irresponsibility is not only a matter of corporations that operate in ‘dirty industries’ in failed or failing states (such as, e.g., extracting or mining companies in third world countries). It is also prevalent in high tech (e.g. weapons or security firms that cooperate with oppressive regimes or criminal organizations), ICT (e.g., internet firms that violate privacy rights and cooperate with national intelligence agencies) or service industries (e.g., banks that are involved in money laundering or tax avoidance practices). Furthermore, the growing influence of organized crime raises questions about the distorting influence of illegal business activities on legal markets; organized crime controls significant parts of numerous markets, from construction to waste processing and finance.

Our sub-theme is thus interested in contributions along a broad spectrum of critical issues and levels of analysis related to corporate (ir)responsibility. We want to discuss the causes, consequences, and organizational implications of corporate irresponsibility on the macro (business-society relationships; institutional environment) as well as the meso (irresponsible business practices; irresponsible organizations) and micro levels of analysis (irresponsible individual behaviour).


Possible questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What constitutes corporate irresponsibility?
  • What is the relationship between corporate responsibility (CSR) and irresponsibility?
  • What are the processes by which irresponsibility is ascribed to individuals or organizations?
  • What are the causes of corporate irresponsibility? What role do institutional pressures play (e.g. legal sanctions, capital markets)?
  • How can we understand the interplay between individual, organizational, and institutional levels with regards to corporate irresponsibility ("bad apple" vs. "bad barrel" perspective)?
  • What industries, countries, or regions are particularly prone to corporate irresponsibility and why?
  • What are the strategies of individuals or corporations to conceal, defend or legitimize irresponsible behaviour?
  • How do the interfaces between legal and illegal organizations and their activities look like?
  • What can be learnt from the analysis of organized crime for the understanding of corporate irresponsibility?




  • Banerjee, S.B. (2007): "Corporate Social Responsibility: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Critical Sociology, 34 (1), 51–79.
  • Gond, J-P., Palazzo, G., & Basu, K. (2009): " Reconsidering Instrumental Corporate Social Responsibility through the Mafia Metaphor." Business Ethics Quarterly, 19 (1), 57–85.
  • Lange, D., & Washburn, N.T. (2012): " Understanding Attributions of Corporate Social Irresponsibility." Academy of Management Review, 37 (2), 300–326.
  • Roberts, J. (2003): "The manufacture of corporate social responsibility. Constructing corporate sensibility." Organization, 10 (2), 249–265.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (2011): "The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy." Journal of Management Studies, 48 (4), 899–931.
  • Vallentin, S. (2015): "Instrumental and Political Currents in the CSR Debate: On the Demise and (Possible) Resurgence of 'Ethics'." In: A. Pullen & C. Rhodes (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 13–31.


Steen Vallentin is Associate Professor in CSR at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Denmark. His research is mainly focused on the political aspects of CSR, including the role of government, the emergence of new modes of governance and the impact of media and public opinion on corporate communication and action. His work is published in numerous journals and books.
Guido Palazzo is Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His research interests are in corporate social responsibility, (un)ethical decision making and organized crime. His work appears in journals such as the 'Academy of Management Review', 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Business Ethics Quarterly' and 'Business & Society'.
Andreas Georg Scherer holds the Chair for Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His research interests are in business ethics, international management, organization theory, philosophy of science, and strategic management. His work has appeared in journals such as 'Academy of Management Review', 'Business Ethics Quarterly', 'Journal of Business Ethics', 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Organization' and 'Organization Studies'.