In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Corporate Social Performance

  • Introduction
  • Operationalizing the CSP Construct
  • Corporate Social Performance and Suppliers: Global Codes of Conduct
  • Corporate Social Performance and Other Stakeholders
  • General Audience Works in Corporate Social Performance
  • Reference Sources for CSP
  • CSP-Related Textbooks

Management Corporate Social Performance
Donna J. Wood
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0099


Corporate social performance (CSP) refers to the principles, practices, and outcomes of businesses’ relationships with people, organizations, institutions, communities, societies, and the earth, in terms of the deliberate actions of businesses toward these stakeholders as well as the unintended externalities of business activity. The development of the CSP concept, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, is important for understanding how CSP is related to other core topics and concepts in business and society/business ethics. As the CSP concept was refined, an earlier term, corporate social responsibility (CSR), was incorporated as one element of CSP, in particular, the ethical and/or structural principles of social responsibility, or business engagement with others. Research attention was also eventually given to business processes for implementing (or avoiding) social responsibility and responding to stakeholder issues and then to the impacts and outcomes of CSP-related behaviors. Thus, over time, researchers included the “why (principles), what and how (processes), and what happened (outcomes)” of CSP. Of necessity, any bibliography on corporate social performance will be integrated with works on related subjects, including corporate social responsibility and responsiveness, stakeholder theory, business ethics, corporate political action, issues management, and sustainability. The reader will find some references to these topics herein, although detailed bibliographic information on them is beyond the scope of this article. The CSP sections are organized in two ways: first is a topical organization, including conceptual development, operationalization, stakeholder relations (employees, suppliers, others), CSP and financial performance, corporate social reporting, and CSP approaches with general audience appeal (plus sections on general references, journals, and textbooks). Second, within the topics, readers will see a chronological order to the research cited. Because CSP is a relatively new area of study, this chronology-within-topic approach helps the reader to see how the field has developed from rudimentary “shoulds” to sophisticated conceptual and empirical research.

History and Conceptual Development of CSP

In the earliest 20th-century iterations of the concept, CSP (then, social responsibility) was largely thought of as a kind of noblesse oblige, an obligation of powerful corporations to “give back”; thus, charitable giving and community service were the principal operational definitions. In the 1960s and 1970s, the academic study of business and society relationships began in earnest. During these years of social turmoil, the emphasis shifted from “giving back” to limiting or eliminating the negative consequences of business activities as well as using the vast resources of business to solve compelling social problems such as racism, poverty, and urban decay. The 1980s and 1990s saw a consolidation of theoretical positions (both descriptive and normative) on CSP, as well as a more definitive exposition of its relationships with corporate financial performance. In the 21st century, recent theory and research has shown that the concept of CSP is dynamic, multidimensional, and still worthy of scholarly and practitioner attention. The intellectual roots of CSP are quite deep, spanning history, philosophy, legal studies, economics, social science, and more. Readers who are interested in learning more about these roots are encouraged to study the references in the CSP works cited in these subsections. The subsection Overview Articles and Books contains several up-to-date summaries of CSP’s conceptual development. Decade-based subsections, beginning with Early Conceptual Development of CSP, 1950s–1960s, note key developments in conceptualizing CSP.

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