The Evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility at Large, Publicly Traded Firms

Open Access
Susko, Kayla Shawn
Area of Honors:
Community, Environment, and Development
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Theodore Roberts Alter, Thesis Supervisor
  • Theodore Roberts Alter, Honors Advisor
  • Kathryn Jo Brasier, Faculty Reader
  • CSR
  • corporate social responsibility
  • sustainability
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved tremendously in the past decade. Motivations to engage in CSR have transitioned from satisfying moral imperatives and external demands to enhancing business performance. Formal and informal institutions such as regulations and social norms have played significant roles in the progression of CSR. The outcome is a transition from retroactive programming and diffused giving to proactive approaches that leverage the assets of the company. Key informant interviews are used to characterize past and present motivations of CSR from the vantage point of employees. The interviews seek to identify key influences of CSR that are external and internal to the firm as well. Eight key informants from four individual companies were chosen based on their work with CSR at a publicly traded company. The participants represented the chemical, building materials, apparel, and food industries. The results provide a basis for both firms and society to think critically about the strategies and implications of corporate social responsibility. Business cannot account for key influences of CSR in the planning and implementation processes without first being aware of them. If it is expected that firms define and provide for the public good through CSR, it is also essential to consider who is advantaged and disadvantaged and how the needs of those that are not incorporated into CSR strategies can be known and met by other entities.