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The institutionalisation of unaccountability : loading the dice of corporate social responsibility discourse

Archel, Pablo and Husillos, Javier and Spence, Crawford (2011) The institutionalisation of unaccountability : loading the dice of corporate social responsibility discourse. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 36 (6). pp. 327-343. ISSN 0361-3682

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Abstract

This paper reports on an in-depth empirical study into recent government-led Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in Spain. It is found, based on interviews and document analysis, that processes of stakeholder consultation relating to these initiatives are characterised by debate and a plurality of different viewpoints. However, this polyphony can be contrasted sharply with the institutional outcomes of these processes. Institutional outcomes represent the viewpoints of only a subset of the actors involved in the stakeholder consultation processes. It is consequently inferred that stakeholder consultation processes serve problematic functions: on one level, these processes legitimise dominant discourses on CSR by giving the impression that the latter are the outcome of a democratic dialogue that is free from power relations; on another level, these processes themselves show to heretic social actors the futility of their heresy and thus encourage those actors to actively adopt the dominant discourse. We conclude that business capture of Corporate Social Responsibility is ingrained into institutional processes in that domain. This raises serious questions regarding the potential for civil society actors to engage with and move the signifier of Corporate Social Responsibility in a more challenging direction.