Macquarie University
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Implementing the social dimension of corporate responsibility: a study in the Australian university context

posted on 2022-03-28, 22:25 authored by Ellen Clare Le Roy
Engaging with corporate responsibility (CR) is a challenge facing the modern organisation and one that poses both risk and opportunity. CR is generally understood to be an approach to business practice that balances environmental, social and economic dimensions. In response to calls from other CR researchers, the purpose of this thesis is to develop a fine grained understanding of the social dimension of CR. The research endeavours to provide a deeper understanding of the social dimension of CR in order to identify the areas that influence the planning and implementation of change towards this dimension of CR in the university context. In particular the thesis examines expectations around social responsibility as well as the definition and operationalisation of this dimension of CR within an Australian university. -- In order to explore these issues a qualitative approach is taken that utilises a single case study design. The university sector has been chosen as the context of the study as its implicit history is founded in social responsibility, particularly in terms of its role in relation to moral responsibility. The research draws on insights from a number of strands of organisational theory including stakeholder theory, organisation development and change, resistance theory, resource based view and institutional theory. This multidimensional approach is taken as it is argued that using multiple theories may help to explain the findings of the research more accurately than if a single theory were used. -- The findings of the research are multifaceted. In early chapters a qualitative metaanalysis is undertaken of the corporate responsibility literature in order to identify definitions of social responsibility. From this analysis an organising framework is developed that provides a normative account of how the social elements of CR are defined and interpreted in the literature and more fully investigates the individual elements that make up this dimension of CR. This framework is the foundation against which the remainder of the thesis is based. It represents a hitherto unrealised attempt to systematically define the social dimension of CR from an academic perspective. A deeper understanding of this framework is then developed by exploring how these elements are operationalised and interpreted by participants at one Australian university. The findings suggest that the role and understanding of CR is poorly defined and that the complex nature of universities makes a coordinated and systematic approach to CR implementation problematic. The findings further suggest that the social dimension of CR is important to stakeholders and plays a key role in universities, but interviews with participants suggest that the implementation of social responsibility currently lacks coordination. To develop more of an understanding of why this is the case, the thesis goes on to explore what is driving change towards social responsibility in the case university and where the barriers and areas of resistance to change lie. The findings from this part of the thesis are important as they help to show where potential problems might arise for universities that are attempting to implement social responsibility. -- The culmination of the findings from the thesis are presented in the final chapter where seven emergent recommendations are considered in detail. These recommendations encapsulate the issues that appear to influence the implementation of social responsibility in the university context. They draw on both the qualitative findings of the research as well as the organisational theories that have influenced it. In particular the recommendations seek to provide a contribution to both theory and practice in terms of building on existing work that has been undertaken with regard to social responsibility in universities, as well as offering some ideas about planning and implementing CR in the university context.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Moral responsibility, corporate responsibility and the university context -- 3. Theoretical influences -- 4. Methodology and research design -- 5. Findings 1: a meta-analysis of the social dimension of corporate responsibility -- 6. Findings 2: the operationalisation of the social dimension of CR in the university context -- 7. Findings 3: drivers and barriers to change towards CR in universities -- 8. Discussion and conclusion -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 205-225

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Marketing and Management

Department, Centre or School

Department of Marketing and Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Anne Ross-Smith

Additional Supervisor 1

Sue Benn


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Ellen Clare Le Roy 2012.




1 online resource (xx, 245 pages) illustrations (some colour)

Former Identifiers

mq:27879 2003624