The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility
Editors: Andrew Crane, Abagail McWilliams, Dirk Matten, Jeremy Moon and Donald S. Siegel
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Price: £95.00 and £.50
ISBN 9780199211593 and 573943
What is it about corporate social responsibility (CSR) that makes it such an amorphous and problematic concept? The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility won't give you the answer - indeed, the editors' concluding chapter echoes the question above - but it will arm dedicated students, researchers and academics with the knowledge and arguments necessary to go some way towards understanding the range of issues and problems involved.
The editors recognise that CSR has been "hampered by a lack of consensus on the definition of the phenomenon, unifying theory, measures and unsophisticated empirical methods", but they provide, in this comprehensive text, a critical reflection of some of the key debates in CSR. There is an inevitable degree of variability and contradiction among this volume's many authors, which may impede its use in the classroom, but for master's courses on business ethics and corporate social responsibility, it will be invaluable to teachers who can recommend key chapters as an alternative to a more easily employed but less demanding textbook.
In seven parts, the book covers critiques of social responsibility, actors and drivers, CSR in a global perspective and an extensive final section considering future perspectives. What these chapters provide is a comprehensive historical overview of the philosophy, ideas and practices that have contributed to the development of CSR over the past 50 years, and critical analyses of different theoretical approaches to the subject. The text is more limited in its review of specific management concepts and tools developed to practise CSR and the key motivators to change, especially consumers, where apart from one chapter on "Consumers as drivers of corporate social responsibility", the impact on companies of the global consumer activist movement, so well documented by authors such as Matthew Hilton (in his 2009 book Prosperity for All: Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization), is largely ignored.
The Oxford Handbook does not provide any easy answers and, to an extent, even criticises the concept of CSR and what it has achieved. Ulrich Steger's chapter, "Future perspectives of corporate social responsibility", is particularly challenging. Here Steger announces what many of us suspect: "even for the most risk-exposed companies or industries, everything beyond the (hard-)core business is of secondary importance".
What is missing? There just aren't enough illustrations of what companies actually do. Perhaps a handbook shouldn't have case studies, but for one of this calibre, more detail would benefit its readers. That and a different cover; surely we should be replacing pictures of "sweatshops" with ones of repentant bankers.
Who is it for? Ethics and business ethics courses at master's level and wherever CSR is included, eg, in MBA programmes.
Presentation Comprehensive and detailed - ultimately an accessible resource.
Would you recommend it? Yes. It is a high-level critical analysis suited to master's level courses.
Authors: Wayne D. Hoyer and Deborah J. MacInnis
Edition: Fifth international
Publisher: Cengage Learning
Who is it for? Consumer behaviour courses at undergraduate and master's level.
Presentation: Very similar to most texts on this subject, although the layout could be improved.
Would you recommend it? Yes. It is in the top league of useful, scholarly texts on consumer behaviour.
Isabelle Szmigin is head of the department of marketing, Birmingham Business School.