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Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe

Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe. Retoric and Realities.(23.07.2009) Do corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies really lead to positive impacts on society and the environment or is it just rhetoric? This is the topic of a new book co-authored by FNI researchers, where focus is on the situation in Europe.

The book presents empirical findings from a range of surveys and in-depth case studies, covering issues such as mitigation of climate change and chemical risk, resource management in marine fisheries, promotion of gender equality and countering of bribery. Sectors covered include the petroleum, fish processing and banking sectors, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in general.

The book is the final result of the EU-sponsored research project 'Rhetoric and Realities: Analysing Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe (RARE)', where FNI has been part of a research consortium consisting of seven institutions from Germany, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Hungary and the UK.

FNI researchers have made major contributions to the book, focusing on theoretical issues as well as on the petroleum sector:

Elin Lerum BoassonIn the chapter 'Standardized CSR and Climate Performance: Why is Shell Willing but Hydro Reluctant?' Elin Lerum Boasson and Jørgen Wettestad explore whether similar CSR instruments lead to similar climate-related rules and practices in different oil companies, using Shell and Hydro as a case study. Both companies adhere to many of the same CSR instruments, but while Hydro executives have been able to constrain the effects of the instrument adherence, only following instrument requirements that fit their initial approach, Shell leaders have promoted the instruments to be translated into internal rules. However, due to the diversity of the Shell culture, the efforts of its executives have resulted in only limited impact, while in Hydro, it is the strong company culture that has made the corporation resistant to the instruments.

Jørgen WettestadIn the chapter 'CSR in the European Oil Sector: A Mapping of Company Perceptions', Elin Lerum Boasson, Jørgen Wettestad and Maria Bohn find that European oil companies primarily see CSR as a tool to achieve compliance with mandatory social and environmental legislation. Climate change has become the most important CSR issue for the companies, while anti-bribery also has fairly high strategic importance. The most popular CSR instruments adhered to are the Global Compact, OECD Guidelines, Responsible Care, ISO 14001, and the Global Reporting Initiative. As to the contribution of CSR instruments to performance, 'company-specific' instruments seem to be much more important than the 'standardized' instruments.

Jon Birger SkjærsethIn the chapter 'A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability Impact of CSR', Jon Birger Skjærseth and Jørgen Wettestad tackle questions such as: What activities 'count' as CSR? How can we determine the sustainability impact of CSR? How do we establish causal relationships to make sure that for instance the improved environmental performance of a company, which it may claim to result from its beyond compliance efforts, is indeed caused by the corporation taking on specific environmental responsibility – and not merely for instance by closing an economically unviable site?


Further information:
   Book presentation: PDF leaflet / Edward Elgar Publishing's website
   Read more about FNI's research on European energy and environmental politics
   More information about the RARE project.
   Contact person: Jørgen Wettestad
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

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