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Corporate Social Responsibility

Baumberg Geiger, Ben (2014) Corporate Social Responsibility. Technical report. Addiction and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe : Reframing Addictions Project (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:55684)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


This report looks at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) across the tobacco, alcohol, and

gambling industries in Europe, and also at CSR around decriminalised drugs (coffeeshops) and

illicit drugs – which we refer to as the ‘addictive industries’. We also look at CSR in the high fat,

salt or sugar (HFSS) food industry , given that some have argued that this too is addictive, and

because its CSR discourses and practices share many features with the addictive industry.

The report defines CSR as “voluntary activities by private businesses that claim to promote

societal welfare, beyond any benefits of economic activity per se,” and looks at three

interconnected questions: corporate actors’ motivations to do CSR; the activities that take

place; and the impacts they have on health and addiction-related harms. The analysis is based

on new documentary and interview-based evidence including 83 direct interviews and 8

recorded speeches by CSR professionals; 31 documentary reports from published corporate CSR

documents; searches of the academic and grey literature, including a systematic analysis of all

final CSR reports from the EU Alcohol & Health Forum; and 72 interviews with drug dealers in

Italian prisons.

The report’s headline findings are that (i) the most common stated motivation for CSR activities

was a long-term ‘licence to operate’, deflecting the possibility of restrictive legislation,

although some industries also reported consumer desires for healthier products; but (ii) there

remains a debate about whether these motivations to claim social benefits translate into actual

social benefits. This requires us to directly examine the nature and impacts of CSR. We find (iii)

a variety of CSR activities that predominantly fit into a discourse of ‘encouraging the

responsible consumer’. However, (iv) many CSR activities are not evaluated; those evaluations

that do exist are not very convincing in terms of key outcomes; and the very small number of

relatively convincing evaluations show negative impacts.

Despite this, (v) most industry respondents nevertheless argued that CSR was ‘the right thing to

do’, partly because it was seen as right to respond to societal pressure, even if it was not felt

that this was likely to reduce addiction-related harm in itself. More importantly for our focus

on health/addiction-related harm, (vi) CSR activities were also claimed to be ‘the right thing to

do’ as they were seen as likely to have an impact (even without any evidence to demonstrate

this) – but the views about what is likely to work among CSR professionals seem to be at odds

with the weight of scientific evidence (particularly for alcohol and tobacco). We conclude with

a recommendation for policymakers based on the evidence within this report, and by linking to

the indirect impacts of CSR activities being studied in ALICE RAP Work Package 12.

Item Type: Reports and Papers (Technical report)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Lisa Towers
Date Deposited: 24 May 2016 12:48 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 11:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Baumberg Geiger, Ben.

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