In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Organizational Responsibility

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Organizations and Societies
  • Theories and Frameworks
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Industry- and Organization-Specific
  • Debates and Dissent
  • Education

Management Organizational Responsibility
Stephanie R. Klein
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0055


There are nearly as many frameworks for organizing the topics that comprise organizational responsibility as there are sources, in part because of the overlap within the literature; for example, positive organizational outcomes of acting responsibly are often presented as reasons to do so. Organizational responsibility covers a range of closely related—even virtually synonymous—areas of research and practice, including social responsibility, organizational citizenship, sustainable business, and social performance. This leads to a similar plethora of definitions for organizational responsibility (and social and other types of responsibility). This bibliography ascribes to the definition of organizations’ ethical obligation to consider social, environmental, and economic outcomes of conducting business. In addition, the many authors who have reviewed organizational responsibility literature and research have a variety of perspectives, but the one thing they agree on is the remarkable lack of synthesis and cohesion in theory, definitions, and research results. This bibliography attempts to provide a solid sampling of perspectives, including theoretical and empirical research reviews and specific investigations and examples. Moving forward, researchers are strongly encouraged to be clear in the definitions, theories, and frameworks driving their work. In addition, this field is one that lends itself to synthesis of science and practice, with researchers mindful of practical applicability and practitioners accepting guidance from science. Organizational responsibility and organizational attention to environmental sustainability can provide positive outcomes for organizations and the societies in which they function. As such, research that helps guide organizations’ understanding and action is extremely important. A few notes on terminology are in order here. “Organizational responsibility” is typically treated as synonymous with “social responsibility.” This might be accurate if “social” is interpreted to mean all of society, but it is important not to overlook the other topics and types. In addition, “organizational” and “corporate” are often used interchangeably, although “corporate” if taken literally would exclude government organizations and smaller private-sector or international businesses that are not legal corporate entities—although authors do not generally appear to intend to exclude noncorporate organizations. Annotations will use the same terminology as the referenced article; please note that CSR is the common acronym for “corporate social responsibility.” Researchers are encouraged to use the more specific terms only when appropriate—for example, using “corporate” when the intent is to limit the discussion to legal corporate entities and to exclude other types of organizations.

General Overviews

This section is designed to provide wider insight into what researchers intend to cover when developing theory or conducting research on organizational responsibility. General overviews are provided for (in order, from most general to most specific) organizational responsibility, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and environmental sustainability. The Overview of the UN Global Compact provides guidance to organizations seeking principles of responsibility. Its ten principles should serve as a useful universal framework for defining organizational responsibility, given the lack of synthesis in theory, definitions, and research results. Carroll and Buchholts 2011 addresses key areas of organizational responsibility and strategic management implications. Aguinis 2011 and Aguinis and Glavas 2012 provide extensive reviews of the literature. The former is framed for an industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology audience, with the latter bringing us to the subtopic of social responsibility. Crane, et al. 2008 offers multidisciplinary perspectives on CSR research, while Lindgreen and Swaen 2010 is a special issue containing articles on five common topic areas.

  • Aguinis, Herman. “Organizational Responsibility: Doing Good and Doing Well.” In APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 3, Maintaining, Expanding, and Contracting the Organization. Edited by Sheldon Zedeck, 855–879. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1037/12171-000

    Addresses the broader topic of responsibility (not limited to social responsibility); some overlap with Aguinis and Glavas 2012. Intended for I/O psychology researchers and practitioners, encouraging incorporation of organizational responsibility into their work. Provides context as to why this topic was largely overlooked by the field of I/O until recently.

  • Aguinis, Herman, and Ante Glavas. “What We Know and Don’t Know about Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review and Research Agenda.” Journal of Management 38.4 (2012): 932–968.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206311436079

    Integration of existing research on CSR at the individual, organizational, and institutional levels. The authors also use their review to identify gaps in the literature. Includes a road map for future research to address the knowledge gaps.

  • Carroll, Archie B., and Ann K. Buchholts, eds. Business and Society: Ethics, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Management. 8th ed. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2011.

    Textbook focused on organizations’ social, legal, political, and ethical responsibilities to both internal and external stakeholders, and implications for strategic management. External stakeholders include government, the natural environment, consumers, and community; coverage of internal stakeholders is largely focused around employees.

  • Crane, Andrew, Abigail McWilliams, Dirk Matten, Jeremy Moon, and Donald S. Siegel, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199211593.001.0001

    Multidisciplinary review of CSR research, including a history of concepts and practices, and a critique of the relevance of CSR. Perspectives are from economics, politics, sociology, law, and accounting, in addition to business and management.

  • Lindgreen, Adam, and Valérie Swaen, eds. Special Issue: Corporate Social Responsibility. International Journal of Management Reviews 12.1 (2010).

    Special issue contains articles on communication, implementation, stakeholder engagement, measurement, and business cases.

  • Overview of the UN Global Compact.

    The UN Global Compact serves as a strategic policy initiative for businesses that wish to align with its principles. The United Nations cannot compel member countries to act responsibly, but it can influence them. The UN Global Compact’s ten principles provide guidance to businesses that recognize their opportunity to positively affect economies and society.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.