Toward political explanation of change in corporate responsibility: Political scholarship on CSR and the case of palm oil biofuels

Ville-Pekka Sorsa*, Martin Fougère

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been recently conceptualized and studied as a political phenomenon. Most debates in this scholarship have thus far focused on normative issues. Less attention has been paid to the explanatory potential of CSR research grounded in political theory and philosophy. In this article, we conduct a pragmatist reading of political scholarship on CSR and seek to deploy existing knowledge for research pursuing political explanation. We argue that the political ontologies that underlie scholarship on CSR can be used to transform normative and descriptive research also for explanatory uses. We show how ontologies vary in terms of potential research objects and scopes of political explanation, and argue that the main types of political-ontological stances adopted in scholarship on CSR, foundational and post-foundational stances, offer explanatory analysis of different schematic guidelines. Our pragmatist reading of previous research and an empirical case illustration of political explanation of change in corporate responsibility in the biofuel industry demonstrate the opportunities, limitations, and challenges different political-ontological commitments provide for political explanation.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalBusiness & society
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • corporate social responsibility
  • explanation
  • palm oil biofuels
  • political philosophy
  • politics

Sustainable Development Goals

  • GOAL 07: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • GOAL 13: Climate Action
  • GOAL 15: Life on Land
  • GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising

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