The Political Economy of Corporate Responsibility in Germany, 1995-2008
During the past decade, Corporate Responsibility – the voluntary engagement of business for social and environmental ends above legally mandated minimum standards – has risen to prominence, if not pre-eminence in global economic governance. However, Corporate Responsibility is not uniformly distributed: the timing, extent and quality of CR varies significantly across countries. Germany is said to be a ‘laggard’ in Corporate Responsibility. This paper both describes and tries to explain this state of affairs, by focusing on business-led Corporate Responsibility associations, coalitions and intermediaries. Examining these, I find that German firms’ stance towards CR has been characterized by ambivalence. For example, German firms joined the EBNSC (since 2000: CSR Europe) in large numbers in the mid-1990s, only to cancel their memberships a few years later. I argue that this ambivalence can be explained with reference to Germany’s institutional framework, corporate governance and regulatory standards, which until recently left less ‘space’ for German companies to engage in CR initiatives compared with their counterparts in the U.K. and U.S.A. The increasing liberalization of the German economy during the past fifteen years has been accompanied by a growing dynamism of CR in Germany, and I present causal mechanisms which link CR and liberalization. The German case suggests that Corporate Responsibility may be emerging as a substitute, rather than a complement, to institutionalized forms of solidarity.
Part Five of the Germany in Global Economic Governance Series
Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies
Germany; Corporate Responsibility; United Kingdom; Trade Liberalization