Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Suomalaisten yritysten vapaaehtoinen sosiaalinen vastuu

Sidosryhmäviitekehys yritysten ja ulkoisten sidosryhmien edustajien näkemyksissä

Maija-Leena Uimonen

Väitöskirja, joulukuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, yhteiskuntapolitiikan laitos.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer only an issue of companies but a concern shared by e.g. the European Union, the International Labour Organization, labour market organizations and many others.

This thesis examines what kind of voluntary corporate social responsibility exceeding the minimum level set in the legislation can be expected from the Finnish companies. The research was based on the interviews of some representatives of Finnish companies and of external stakeholders. Earlier Finnish empirical research on the topic has solely analysed the stakeholder thinking and the ethics of the views of the company representatives. The views of the external stakeholders brought ht up a much more versatile perspective on the voluntary corporate social responsibility of the companies. That is the particular surplus value of this research.

This research, founded on stakeholder thinking, evaluated what kind of starting points and ideas on responsibility the views of the representatives of the companies and the external stakeholders were based on the voluntary social responsibility. Furthermore, the research also investigated how their views about the corporate social responsibility indicated the benefits achieved on the cooperative actions with different partners - for example companies, communities and public administration.

To fulfil the aims of the research, the following questions were used as part tasks in mapping the basic foundations and starting points expressed by the representatives of the companies and the external stakeholders:

1) How do laws, directions concerning social responsibility of companies, and opinions and demands of the stakeholders guide and affect the voluntary corporate social responsibility?

2) How can companies assume voluntary corporate social responsibility in addition to their core functions and without compromising their profitability, and how does, for example, the tightening competition affect the possibility of taking responsibility?

3) What kind of ethic and moral foundations is the corporate social responsibility based on?

4) What kind of roles can companies have in securing and promoting the well-being of citizens in Finland and on the global market as one subsystem of the society?

The views on the voluntary corporate social responsibility of nine big companies, one medium-sized company and one small company, all considered responsible pioneer companies, were studied with surveys and half-structured theme interviews between 2003 and 2004. The research proceeded as a theory-bounded study. The empirical material and the previous stakeholder thinking theories (Takala 2000b, Vehkaperä 2003) guided the thesis and worked abductively in interplay with each other during the research process. (Tuomi & Sarajärvi 2002.) The aims and the methods of the research and the themes of the interviews were defined on the basis of that information.

The aims of the research were surveyed qualitatively with the strategy of a multiple case study. Representatives from nine big peer companies and nine external stakeholders were interviewed with half-structured themes between 2004 and 2005. The external stakeholders and the peer companies were chosen with the "thinking" of theoretical replication by Yin, according to which the views of the representatives of those groups would differ from those of the pioneer companies and also from those of each others. The multiple case study supports analysing the internal cohesion of the views of different groups and comparing their differences, and it supports theoretical evaluation and theory-building as well. (Yin 2003.) Another reason for choosing the external stakeholders was their known cooperation with companies.

The spoken argumentations of the company and stakeholder representatives on the voluntary social responsibility of the companies were analysed and interpreted in the first place with an analytic discourse analysis, and the argumentations were classified allusively into the stakeholder discourses in three of the part tasks. In the discourse analysis, argumentations of the speech is seen to be intervowen with cultural meanings. (Jokinen & Juhila 1999.)

The views of the representatives of the pioneer companies and the external stakeholders were more stakeholder-orientated than the views of the representatives of the peer companies. For the most part, the voluntary corporate social responsibility was seemingly targeted on single, small cooperation projects of the companies and external stakeholders. The pioneer companies had more of those projects, and they were participating in the projects more actively than the peer companies were. The significant result in this research was the notion that, in particular, the representatives of the pioneer companies and external stakeholders did not consider employing and paying taxes to be enough of reciprocal corporate social responsibility. However, they still wanted to preserve the Finnish welfare model, and the interviewees did not wish major changes in the present legislation or the social agreements.

According to this study, the voluntary corporate social responsibility is motivated by ethical utilitarianism which varied from very narrow to very wide in relation to benefits achieved by companies and stakeholders (Velasquez 2002, Lagerspetz 2004). Compared with the peer companies, more of the representatives of the pioneer companies and of external stakeholders estimated that companies in their decision-making and operations considered not only the advantages and the benefits of the owners and other internal stakeholders, but also those of the external stakeholders and of the whole society. However, all interviewees expressed more or less strongly that the economic responsibility guides the voluntary responsible actions of the companies in the first place. This kind of utilitarian foundation of behaviour appeared from this research was named as business-orientated company moral. This thesis also presents a new voluntary corporate social responsibility model with four variables on the stakeholder discourses and their distinctive characteristics.

The utilitarian motivation of a company's behaviour on their operations has been criticized on the grounds that the end justifies the means. It has also been stated that it is impossible to evaluate the benefits of the utilitarian type of actions to the individuals and the society. It is expected however that companies for their part promote the material and immaterial well-being of the individuals on the global, national and local markets. The expectations are so strong that if companies do not take into account the ethical and moral values, they can possibly suffer significant financial losses. All stakeholders, especially consumers, can with their own choices promote the responsible behaviour of the companies.

Key words: voluntary corporate social responsibility, external stakeholders, corporate citizenship, ethics and morality, utilitarianism, stakeholder discourses, welfare society, globalisation

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 20.11.2006

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