TYMS staff investigate how MNEs use their corporate social responsibility programmes to control key assets.
A recent study by York Management School staff examines the link between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate control. Corporations are often accused of developing cosmetic CSR programmes that lack genuine substance. By focusing on the issue of control of key assets, this research shows that CSR programmes can have positive and negative content. CSR initiatives such as employee housing, training and welfare can have positive effects for staff welfare, and at the same time extend corporate control over significant aspects of their lives. Conversely, where a CSR policy might threaten such control, for example employee participation, it is more likely to be strongly curtailed. Genuine transfers of power that might arise as a result of CSR initiatives are viewed negatively by corporate management. In a leading example, the refusal of British Petroleum (The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) to involve Iranians in all but the lowest levels of the organisational hierarchy resulted in the nationalisation of the company’s assets by the Iranian government in 1951.