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Corporate citizenship (CC) becomes more powerful in many organizations. This development offers actors associated with CC increased personal power, which might attract opportunistic actors with no genuine interest in realizing the true potential of CC. Thus, the attribution of importance and power to CC might ultimately be an impediment to furthering CC strategy and activities. Smart CC management has to counter these tendencies.

This study conducted by Krista Bondy finds that “in some organizations, the more powerful CC becomes, the more this power becomes an obstacle to implementing CC systems”. The reasons for this paradox are described as the following:

  • As CC becomes more important and powerful, opportunistic actors are attracted with no genuine interest in driving CC
  • These actors use CC to improve own position power, leading to power struggles between actors who attempt to control CC
  • Due to the complexity of CC, it is easy for actors with little expertise to manipulate and control CC, without the organization realizing the consequences
  • The complexity of CC is too high for senior managers, leaving them unable or unwilling to resolve the power struggles

The consequences can be dire:

  • Implementation efforts are undermined, as attention and priorities are turned toward power positions rather than CC
  • The amount of work done to further CC might actually decrease with increased importance of CC
  • Because power struggles around CC are not resolved by senior management, organizational stakeholders tend to resolve this ambiguous situation themselves. This often leads to the abandonment of innovative CC strategies, and the support of ‘tick-box exercises’ that comply with only minimalistic ethical standards; as this is perceived in line with traditional business concerns/ manageable with existing skills and competencies

The study of Krista Bondy offers a very important contribution to CC knowledge. Over the years, we have been offered various implementation models for driving CC strategy and actions. The issue of power, however, has been neglected. Without considering power positions, change management towards positive and impactful CC implementation remains ineffective.

Krista Bondy (2008). The paradox of power in CSR: A case study on implementation. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(2), 307-323.

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