Most Read: The Evolution of CSR

On the publisher’s page for our journal, Business & Society, lists are kept for the most read and most cited articles. Most of the ‘most read’ articles are those published in the last three or four years. But not the most read article. That honor belongs to Archie Carroll, who’s article Corporate Social Responsibility: Evolution of a definitional construct, was published in 1999 and still, nearly 20 years later, is still our most widely read article.

It begs the question, why is it still so widely read? Certainly it is a well-written article with good insights into how the CSR construct has developed from 1950 through the ‘90s. But candidly, there are many well written articles with equally good insights in our journal. Given the age of the article, what has allowed it to keep its staying power?

Two observations come to mine. The first reason is that, despite all of the work done in the CSR field, we are still grappling with fundamental questions related to CSR. Where did it come from? How long has society cared about societal and environmental impacts of corporations? Is this just a recent phenomenon? As scholars keep coming back to this article to review the evolution of these ideas, they are reminded that while CSR and related topics are perhaps more widely talked about now, they have been percolating for quite some time. In our modern age of sound bites and hot trends, some powerful ideas have been in development for a bit longer than our news cycle would suggest. It is good and encouraging that so many of us are making the effort to understand the origins of the field as a way to gain deeper perspective on current issues.

The second reason is that the concept of CSR seems to have gained widespread acceptance, such that newer scholars and grad students likely account for many of the downloads and reads. If the reads were only coming from an older group of tree huggers and environmental academic activists, the article would not still be so widely consumed; it would have tapered off. But CSR is here to stay. It is a concept new students are choosing to study, not one that only their advisers care about. Many current graduate students are growing up into a world where the intersection of business and society is an explosive mix of polarizing topics. The idea that corporations have an important role to play and should be held accountable for their social and environmental impacts is not foreign to them. They get it. They embrace it. And they are reading about it.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to read this great article, or it has been a while since you have, go ahead and give it a read today. You can download and access it here. While you’re on the website, be sure to check out the archive of all our issues, as well as the OnlineFirst articles that are not yet in an issue. Also, if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow our page to get keep up with all the latest.

Tim Hart, The University of Tulsa

Comments
  • Cristin
    Reply

    Unfortunately, I think some of your arguments make CSR more vulnerable than make it an important part of organizational culture. For example, “Capitalism, which is profit-oriented, has destroyed the balance of life through excessive stimulation of human economic potentials and led to lower prosperity and poorer social condition” we have to agree to disagree on this. But what’s not arguable is an organization is not profitable it cannot survive so it would not be able have a CSR program. If there is no profitable corporate structures everything CSR programs do would have to be government based so whatever your views on that it is clear you can’t have CSR without the C.

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