Seeing ourselves as others see us: incorporating reflexivity in corporate social responsibility


Mason, Christopher; Simmons, John


This chapter presents a rationale for and a method of achieving a more inclusive and value-based approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that incorporates due recognition of an organization’s obligations to its stakeholders, the environment, and wider society. Its theoretical underpinning draws from the constructs of stakeholder theory and reflexivity and gains from their synergistic application. Synergism enables us to address the fundamental question “what does CSR do for stakeholders and how do stakeholders react to CSR?” (Hildebrand, Sen, & Bhattacharya, 2011). Reflexive analysis requires understanding of the complex business context that confronts organizations engaging in CSR and awareness of an organization’s position in its environment, together with an understanding of the expectations and values of salient stakeholders (Barratt & Korac-Kakabadse, 2002). Commentators have identified the instrumental version of CSR that dominates mainstream research as an intellectual blockage that prevents the field from achieving critical reflexivity and thereby a justifiable raison d’être (Jones, 2009). Utilizing stakeholder theory in a reflexive analysis of CSR also responds to a recently proposed research agenda urging focus on conflicts of interest between stakeholders and the challenge that management faces in coping with these diverse objectives (Mainardes, Alves, & Raposo, 2011). Viewing stakeholder theory through a reflexive lens enables its application in a normative way so that organizations “can see their CSR activities as their stakeholders see them.” It also aligns with a view of CSR as “context-specific organizational actions and policies that take into account stakeholders’ expectations and the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental performance” (Aguinis, 2011, p. 855). We therefore construe CSR-related relationships between the focal organization and its stakeholder constituencies as a form of psychological contract that enables evaluation of the level of justice that these represent (Mainardes et al., 2011).

Publication year


Publication type



Routledge Handbook of Social and Sustainable Finance / Othmar M. Lehner (ed.), pp. 204-221


Taylor & Francis




Copyright © 2017 selection and editorial matter, Othmar M. Lehner; individual chapters, the contributors.