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Study: Corporate Social Responsibility on the Rise – Despite Globalization, Cross-country Differences Persist

Study by Social Scientists of Freie Universität Berlin with Support of the Bertelsmann Foundation

№ 187/2016 from Jun 02, 2016

Corporations from OECD countries are increasing their corporate responsibility efforts according to a study by researchers at Freie Universität Berlin. Prof. Gregory Jackson und Julia Bartosch have created a new Corporate Responsibility Social Index, showing that corporations from Spain and the UK are among the leaders, whereas German firms fall on average into the intermediate range compared to other countries. The study also shows that countries with high values for Corporate Responsibilit also have more firms experiencing controversies related to irresponsible actions by corporations.

How corporations address corporate responsibility issues differs strongly across countries. Germany is among the leaders in adopting policies related to workplace diversity, but continues to have a low percentage of women in top management compared to many countries. The study shows that UK firms are among the leaders in community engagement, while firms from Nordic countries are strong in topics related the human rights across their supply chains.

Corporate responsibility is strongly influenced by national-level institutional factors, according to the authors — in particular corporate governance, product market regulation, and employment relations institutions. A strong positive effect on corporate responsibility is associated with worker participation in the form of works councils, the presence of collective agreements with trade unions, and higher levels of state social spending. Beyond this, mandatory disclosure of non-financial information was shown to have a positive effect on activities related to social responsibilities.

The study argues that national institutions remain key drivers of the degree and forms of corporate responsibility engagement. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to understanding the role of institutional drivers, however, does not exist

Additional Information

In the study by Prof. Dr. Gregory Jackson und Julia Bartosch of Freie Universität Berlin, which was supported by the Bertelsmann Foundation, corporate responsibility by firms is examined from an internationally comparative perspective. Company data was analyzed from 24 countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the years 2008 to 2014. In conjunction with the awarding of the 2016 Reinhard Mohn Prize, the Bertelsmann Foundation is focusing activities on the topic of corporate responsibility.

Further Information and Interview Requests

Link to the Homepage of the Foundation

Excerpts from the Study