Sub-theme 27: Constructing Businesses Social and Environmental Responsibilities in the Global South: Tensions between Tradition, Innovation, and Imposition --> HYBRID!

Pilar Acosta
École Polytechnique, France
Joel Bothello
Concordia University, Canada
Stefanie Habersang
Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany

Call for Papers

Businesses play a major role in tackling societal problems; their engagements range from policies around philanthropy, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate sustainability to more historical practices such as paternalism (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2017). Despite the pervasiveness of business-society relationships across the globe, the involvement of for-profit actors in the provision of public goods is especially salient in the Global South: for instance, in low-income countries, businesses have undertaken political roles traditionally considered to be within the purview of the State, such as providing education, recreation or health (Acosta & Péretzs, 2019; Matten & Crane, 2005, Scherer, 2018; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011). Through their roles in addressing social issues, private, for-profit actors are also increasingly determining and regulating social behavior (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019).
The global spread of CSR and the worldwide expansion of sustainability (Bothello & Salles-Djelic, 2018) has also impacted how private actors develop new forms of social and environmental responsibility with an increasing focus on questions at the societal level (Wickert, 2021). Examples of these practices include the development of responsible investment approaches, carbon footprint measures, or gender and diversity programs. In parallel, we witness an increase in the establishment of transnational organizations, multi-stakeholder alliances and meta-organizations, all aimed at creating, monitoring and enforcing standards (Berkowitz et al., 2020). Far from being passive recipients though, Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) have also been actively defining the terms of engagement, for instance defining environmental behaviour (Scherer et al., 2016) across supply chains (Reinecke & Donaghey, 2021).
However, the effectiveness and appropriateness of businesses involving themselves in tackling social and environmental issues has long been a contentious topic. For instance, CSR is usually defined at the global level failing to take into account contextual idiosyncrasies (Acosta et al., 2021), which prevents MNCs from both taking into account multiple voices (Girschik et al., 2020; Reinecke & Donaghey, 2021) and developing solutions that address structural problems within their host contexts (Alamgir & Banerjee, 2018). Aside from this is a more fundamental issue about whether such interventions are effectively addressing the negative effects of capitalism – or simply acting as a vehicle to perpetuate them (Schneider, 2019).
Beyond this is the role of the academic: the comparative lenses we adopt to analyze the Global South involves a pejorative view of those settings vis-à-vis the Global North. Low-income countries are, for example, often labelled as “institutional voids” (Bothello et al., 2019). This view ignores the considerable social and cultural capital preexisting in these settings and transposes Western concepts (e.g., performance, strategic growth), while avoiding the construction of a more nuanced and specific reality (Nason & Bothello, 2019). Indeed, the model for innovative solutions and change that has dominated management literature is one based on a top-down approach to innovation and technology transfer from Northern countries. In terms of social and environmental policy, this domination of Western forms of thinking and knowledge may ultimately exacerbate the ecological and social problems we face rather than ameliorate them (Banerjee & Arjalies, 2021). As such, we need greater efforts to identify and develop indigenous solutions (Fu et al., 2011).
Accordingly, in this sub-theme, we want to dig deeper into the tensions created by private actors’ involvement in social and environmental issues in the Global South. We also see this sub-theme as a place to discuss our responsibility as researchers in engaging with these settings, as well as with marginalized actors and organizations, when studying business involvement in social and environmental issues. Although the definition of Global South/low-income countries is of debate, in this sub-theme we take a broad perspective wishing to include poorly explored countries and communities in the organizational literature.
We seek to examine some of (without being limited to) the following inquiries:

  • How have actors and organizations developed solutions to social and environmental needs in the Global South?

  • What have been the outcomes of the involvement of private actors in social and environmental issues in these non-traditional settings?

  • What different social and environmental practices have emerged in developing regions? How do they differ from those in other contexts?

  • What institutional mechanisms promote democratic forms local-global dialogue in different and new forms of social and environmental responsibility? How does the institutional context of actors affect dialogue practice?

  • In the context of grand challenges, what can we learn from indigenous approaches in the Global South?

  • How can we ensure that indigenous approaches to social and environmental responsibility will not fall victim to westernized ideas? How do actors and organizations in developing regions preserve tradition and protect themselves from Western imposition?

  • How do actors and organizations across different regulatory environments (e.g., authoritarian regimes) understand CSR? How do these understandings differ from those in other environments?

  • What are the tensions in the encounter between traditional sustainability-related practices and global approaches?

  • How do individuals, managers at all hierarchical levels, or entrepreneurs, perceive and cope with the tensions of integrating (or not) traditional approaches and new social and environmental practices?

  • What are the implications of hybrid CSR expressions (Jamali & Karam, 2018)?

  • How can we better equip ourselves as researchers to avoid a pejorative view of settings in developing countries? What kind of academic system do we need to avoid pejorative views on developing countries?

  • How do actors, organizations, and governments in developing countries deal with the tensions to reach a state of growth, development, and wealth close to one of developed countries, but at the same suffer from the catastrophic consequences that unlimited growth has produced (e.g., floods, droughts, or other extreme events)?



  • Acosta, P., Acquier, A., & Gond, J.-P. (2019): “Revisiting Politics in Political CSR. How coercive and deliberative dynamics operate through institutional work in a Colombian company.” Organization Studies, 42 (7), 1111–1134.
  • Acosta, P., & Pérezts, M. (2019): “Unearthing Sedimentation Dynamics in Political CSR: The Case of Colombia.” Journal of Business Ethics, 155, 425–444.
  • Alamgir, F., & Banerjee, S.B. (2019): “Contested compliance regimes in global production networks: insights from the Bangladesh garment industry.” Human Relations, 72, 272–297.
  • Banerjee, S.B., & Arjalies, D. (2021): “Celebrating the End of Enlightenment: Organization Theory in the Age of the Anthropocene and Gaia (and why neither is the solution to our ecological crisis).” Organization Theory, first published online on August 25, 2021,
  • Berkowitz, H., Crowder, L., & Brooks, C. (2020): “Organizational Perspectives On Oceans Governance: Meta-Organizations And Cross-Sectoral Collective Action.” Marine Policy, 118, 104026,
  • Bothello, J., Nason, R.S., & Schnyder, G. (2019): “Institutional Voids and organization studies: Towards an epistemological rupture.” Organization Studies, 40 (10), 1499–1512.
  • Bothello, J., & Salles-Djelic, M.-L. (2018): “Evolving Conceptualizations of Organizational Environmentalism: A Path Generation Account.” Organization Studies, 39 (1), 93–119.
  • Djelic, M.-L., & Etchanchu-Schneider, H. (2017): “Contextualizing Corporate Political Responsibilities : Neoliberal CSR in Historical Perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics, 142, 641–661.
  • Etchanchu, H., & Djelic, M.-L. (2019): “Old Wine in New Bottles? Parentalism, Power, and Its Legitimacy in Business–Society Relations.” Journal of Business Ethics, 160, 893–911.
  • Girschik, V., Svystunova, L., & Lysova, E.I. (2020): “Transforming corporate social responsibilities: Toward an intellectual activist research agenda for micro-CSR research.” Human Relations , 75 (1), 3–32.
  • Jamali, D., & Karam, C. (2018): “Corporate Social Responsibility in Developing Countries as an Emerging Field of Study.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 20 (1), 32–61.
  • Matten, D., & Crane, A. (2005): “Corporate Citizenship: toward an extended theoretical conceptualization.” Academy of Management Review, 30 (1), 166–179.
  • Nason, R.S., & Bothello, J. (2019): “Far from Void: Institutional Richness and Growth in the Informal Economy.” Academy of Management Proceedings, 2019 (1), 17634,
  • Reinecke, J., & Donaghey, J. (2021): “Political CSR at the Coalface – The Roles and Contradictions of Multinational Corporations in Developing Workplace Dialogue.” Journal of Management Studies, 58 (2), 457–486.
  • Scherer, A.G. (2018): “Theory Assessment and Agenda Setting in Political CSR: A Critical Theory Perspective.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 20 (2), 1–24.
  • 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.
  • Schneider, A. (2020): “Bound to Fail? Exploring the Systemic Pathologies of CSR and Their Implications for CSR Research.” Business & Society, 59 (7), 1303–1338.
  • Wickert, C. (2021): “Corporate Social Responsibility Research in the Journal of Management Studies: A Shift from a Business-Centric to a Society-Centric Focus.” Journal of Management Studies, 58 (8), 1–17.
  • Xiaolan F., Pietrobelli, C., & Soete, L. (2011): “The Role of Foreign Technology and Indigenous Innovation in the Emerging Economies: Technological Change and Catching-up.” World Development, 39 (7), 1213–1225.
Pilar Acosta Pilar Acosta is Maitre de Conférences at École Polytechnique in the Management, innovation and entrepreneurship department. Originally trained as an engineer, she earned her Ph.D in management at ESCP Europe and Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne. Her work has been published in international journals such as ‘Organization Studies’ and the ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, book chapters and international conferences. Her research focuses on the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability-related practices in developing countries from both a historical approach and an organizational perspective. She is particularly interested in the intersection of private and public actors in the provision of public goods. Before integrating École Polytechnique, she was an assistant professor at the School of business and economic sciences at Universidad Icesi, in Cali, Colombia, where she remains an adjunct researcher.
Joel Bothello is an Associate Professor in the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada, and the holder of the Concordia University Research Chair in Resilience & Institutions. He conducts research on resilience and entrepreneurship in contexts of poverty. Joel’s work has been published in ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Harvard Business Review’, ‘Academy of Management Learning & Education’, ‘Regulation & Governance’, and ‘Theory and Society’.
Stefanie Habersang is a Lecturer at the Institute of Management & Organization at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany. Her work focuses on organizational change, new forms of organizing and sustainability. Stefanie is also part of an interdisciplinary research team studying social gender roles in entrepreneurship; furthermore, she works with other disciplines to transfer ideas about qualitative meta-studies to the organization and management field. Stefanie’s work has been published in the ‘Journal of Management Studies’.