Purpose: This paper aims to examine the significance and challenges of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives organized by multi-stakeholders and to clarify the function of CSR initiatives: What is the significance of multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs)? What conditions are required for CSR initiatives to work satisfactorily? How do CSR standards function effectively in companies? Design/methodology/approach: The significance and challenges of multi-stakeholder CSR initiatives are clarified theoretically, based on previous literature from relevant research fields. Findings: MSIs are beyond the “dichotomy” of two traditional approaches to CSR, namely, voluntary vs mandatory. However MSIs do not automatically ensure good performance. We should discuss not only the legitimacy of MSIs but external monitoring and evaluation systems for responsible companies in the market, as well as organizational efforts to incorporate CSR standards into managerial processes. Social implications: This paper shows that an MSI is an important platform for establishing and promoting a CSR standard, and further that market maturity and stakeholder engagement are required to make CSR work. Originality/value: The study explains that ceremonial compliance with CSR standards may be inevitable even where the legitimacy of an MSI is secured, and that we should recognize that monitoring and sanction systems in the market and an organizational approach to the incorporation of CSR in management practices are required.
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