Corporate social responsibility in the Vietnamese garment and food industries : antecedents, strategies and performance

Do, T 2018, Corporate social responsibility in the Vietnamese garment and food industries : antecedents, strategies and performance, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Corporate social responsibility in the Vietnamese garment and food industries : antecedents, strategies and performance
Author(s) Do, T
Year 2018
Abstract Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has attracted the unprecedented attention of governments, non-government agencies, civil society and businesses in developing countries. The interest was heightened when recent significant economic growth has been accompanied by unsustainable and irresponsible business practices and their consequent environmental and social problems in these countries. The extant literature on CSR in developing countries indicates that complex CSR practices are locally contextualised and driven by multilevel factors.

While studies on CSR in Vietnam suggest inadequate conceptualisation of CSR and reluctant engagement in CSR initiatives by local firms, there is a limited body of literature that investigates how CSR is conceptualised, driven and materialised by businesses and the underlying mechanism of CSR variants ‘from a state of mere compliance to a mode of engagement, from harm minimization to value creation’ (Luetkenhorst, 2004).

Using qualitative methodology with a multiple case-study approach, this thesis explores the driving factors at institutional, organisational and individual levels for CSR strategies and implementation in the Vietnamese food and garment industries as these two industries are important contributors to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Purposeful sampling was employed with a sample of six companies (three garment companies and three food companies) across three major economic regions of Vietnam. A total number of 43 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 senior managers in the six companies and four CSR experts. Several strategies were applied to safeguard data integrity, thereby enhancing the trustworthiness and creditability of the data. The data analyses entailed thematic and content analysis using both NVivo coding software and manual coding.

Several important findings were generated from the thesis. First, it was found that the interaction of institutional forces (regulations, social norms and political ideology), key stakeholder pressures, company strategy and leader perceptions impact CSR practices and their development over time. In particular, while institutional pressures and external stakeholders (government and customers) were proven to push local companies to adopt a defensive-compliance posture to CSR, internal factors (company strategy and leader values and perceptions of CSR) have a pull effect on the adoption of more proactive approaches to CSR. Second, the thesis reveals that company strategic postures to CSR aspects (environment, labour and society) were impacted by the type of industry. While all the companies studied took an accommodative posture to labour issues, two were proactive regarding environmental and social practices. Specifically, while food companies perceived local community and government as critical stakeholders and gave priority to community engagement programmes, the garment companies focused on alignment of CSR practices with the requirements of international customers. Third, there is also evidence of explicit CSR practices to address more socially-desired issues that local companies embraced to build corporate reputation and competitiveness. Fourth, several company characteristics (ownership and governance structure, resources, stages of business development, corporate identity and culture) were found to influence CSR performance.

The thesis contributes to the body of knowledge on CSR practices in a developing-country context. First, the prominent form of implicit and informal internally-focused CSR in labour strongly reflects the national institutional context and political economy in which the notion of employee and social welfare is embodied in socialist ideology and the perceived role of businesses as job and income generators in a developing country. Moreover, the thesis adds a nuanced understanding of CSR development in a developing-country context in which CSR concept is diffused, translated and adapted at the State, industry, company and manager levels and manifested in variations of CSR expressions.

Theoretically, the study provides an integrative model to explain CSR antecedents, strategies and performance and develops a new 2x2 typology thereby extending Matten and Moon’s (2008) implicit/explicit taxonomy and gaining a more insightful understanding of CSR variants in a developing country. Practically, the study suggests that developing a right management mindset and stakeholder pressures are crucial factors in driving a more proactive stance to CSR issues by local businesses. Furthermore, stakeholder communication and multi-stakeholder engagement are needed to create CSR-related values in the business community and public domain to facilitate successful execution of CSR initiatives. From the business perspective, a strategic approach with formal and explicit CSR and strategic alignment can build a stronger business case for CSR engagement.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Subjects Organisational Behaviour
Organisation and Management Theory
Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement
Keyword(s) corporate social responsibility
institution theory
CSR strategy
developing country
corporate strategy
stakeholder theory
nonmarket strategy
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Created: Thu, 28 Jun 2018, 15:33:31 EST by Denise Paciocco
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