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Critical incidents and social construction of corporate social responsibility


  • Ole Andreas Engen
  • Aslaug Mikkelsen
  • Kjell Grønhaug


Purpose - This paper seeks to address how major companies adjust their behaviour and definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR) when exposed to “critical incidents”. Design/methodology/approach - This is a qualitative explorative study including two cases from the Norwegian oil and gas industry, both reflecting critical incidents that are included in the present study: the Utkal case of Norsk Hydro and the Iran corruption case of Statoil. Findings - The critical incidents reported here resulted in changes in decision making and the reformulation of corporate strategies. The findings reported also reveal how the construction of CSR policy and the construction of the reality of the different stakeholders were transferred between companies, NGOs and civil society. Research limitations/implications - Only a small sample of events and companies is investigated in the study. Accordingly, future research is needed on how legislation and government regulations affect a broader scale of different companies and how complex organisations manage individual and organisational challenges concerning all aspects of CSR. Practical implications - Assuming that critical incidents influence organisational attention, interpretation and actions, the study indicates that the incidents can be seen as catalysts for the emergence of new CSR policy. New CSR policy is expressed in the patterns of social behaviour. This implies participating in diverse social networks, partnerships and learning forums and that CSR behaviour is constructed in the interaction between company, NGOs, media and business networks. Originality/value - Similar studies have not previously been undertaken in Norwegian oil companies.

Suggested Citation

  • Ole Andreas Engen & Aslaug Mikkelsen & Kjell Grønhaug, 2010. "Critical incidents and social construction of corporate social responsibility," Social Responsibility Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 6(3), pages 345-361, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:srjpps:v:6:y:2010:i:3:p:345-361

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