The objective of this dissertation has been twofold: First, to develop a systemic theoretical framework on which to base ideographic explanations of the nature, causes, dynamics, and consequences of corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate social action (CSA), and corporate social performance (CSP), with a focus on subsidiaries of multinational companies. This framework presents CSR, CSA, and CSP from the perspective of critical realism and morphogenetic social theory. Second, using that framework, to provide an explanatory account of CSR/CSA/CSP in the case of one particular subsidiary organization operating in Mexico.
This dissertation presents a theoretical framework according to which, there are universal ethical principles and structural global factors that define and motivate CSR, but there are also many and more proximal factors that are idiosyncratic to each society. These causal factors emerge from both the cultural (ideational) and structural systems of each society. In the case of multinational companies and their subsidiaries, CSR causal factors emerge from the different cultural and structural systems in which these companies operate. In addition to their first-order (direct) causal influence, those causal factors have second-order relations of congruence or incongruence with one another. Their specific configuration in each time and place conditions, but does not determine, corporate social responses. The effect of those causal factors is necessarily mediated by the actions of managers, who also are endowed with causal powers.
The interplay between moral and social causal factors and managerial actions shape corporate social action (CSA). Such corporate responses have as their outcome a certain level of corporate social performance (CSP), a construct which has several dimensions, some of them empirical, and some others placed at deeper levels of social reality which imply a certain moral and social stable positioning of the company in its environment, i.e. a certain degree of legitimacy. In addition, corporate social action and performance also have second-order effects on the organization and its managers, which contribute positively or negatively to the development of the organization and its members.
The second part of the dissertations presents a single-case study. It refers to Mexfruco, a fruit exporting company located in Mexico, subsidiary of Interfruco, a U.S. corporation. The outcome of the study is an explanatory narrative of Mexfruco's CSA, which constitutes a “plausibility probe” of the abovementioned theoretical framework.
The case study answers the question of which are the sources and nature of corporate moral and social responsibilities. A number of properties or causal factors are identified. They emerge from the socio-cultural system in which Mexfruco was embedded. In this way, causal factors of diverse nature are incorporated in one model, i.e. religious or philosophical motivations, institutional forces, patterns existing in the task environment, etc., add or subtract from each other to outline the complex causality of CSA. Those emergent properties stood in positions of complementarity or contradiction with one another, which defined a situational logic which predated, conditioned, and in turn, was confronted by managerial actions.
Based on this analysis, three causal configurations of the company's CSA are proposed, corresponding to its actions oriented to workers, growers, and customers, respectively. A number of factors (or emergent properties) combined to create a given form of CSA. Managerial agency (discretion and ability) was a necessary condition in all causal configurations. The postulated causal configurations ideographically explain the observed CSA, and therefore, they exhibit properties that are valid for understanding other cases, despite the particularities of Mexfruco. By virtue of this, these causal configurations constitute hypotheses amenable to verification or modification in other cases or contexts.
From the moral/social perspective, the desirable outcome of CSA is the creation of the various forms of legitimacy for the company which can be measured along a CSP profile. The last part of the case study explains how Mexfruco's CSA gained or maintained legitimacy, i.e. CSP, for the company. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)