Mzembe, Andrew (2012) Corporate Social Responsibility in Malawi: Case Studies of the Mining and Agricultural Industries. Doctoral thesis, The University of Huddersfield.

This thesis reports on an exploratory study of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a developing countries context and with special reference to the mining and agricultural industries in Malawi. CSR in Malawi is progressively becoming a significant and complex area of investigation not only for business ethics scholars, but also to development scholars and practitioners. It is considered a crucial issue not only because of the complexity of the social, economic and political environment in which companies operate, but also because of the many social and environment impacts which business activities have on Malawian society.

Whereas it is generally accepted that firms have moral responsibilities to respond to societal issues, crucially, evidence suggests that there has been lack of consensus on the nature of the responsibilities which a company should assume in a given society. Hence, the enlightened self-interest and stakeholder theories are critically examined to provide insights and inform the exploratory but empirically based CSR research which is fundamental to this thesis. Using a qualitative interpretative based case study strategy, this study examined the CSR agenda pursued by two firms operating in the mining and agricultural industries in Malawi. Findings from this study suggests that the current form of the CSR agenda practised by the case study companies in Malawi is largely guided by instrumental rationality rather than the normative perspective; the perspective some CSR theorists consider to associated with the CSR agenda pursued by companies in the developing countries. As such, this viewpoint can be understood to have a profound influence on the extent to which these companies make decisions about the CSR initiatives and stakeholder engagement practices they pursue as part of their CSR agenda in Malawi.

This study makes the following contributions to the wider CSR literature. Firstly, it has provided an empirically based investigation of the CSR agenda in Malawi, and has directly contributed to attempts by scholars to develop an in-depth understanding of the nature of CSR in a developing country context; an area which is currently under-researched. Specifically, it has not only provided insights into managerial and stakeholders’ perceptions about CSR and about CSR drivers, but has also attempted to explore the link between the CSR agenda and the stakeholder engagement practices which the case study companies pursued. Secondly, this study pushes the normative frontier by showing that stakeholder engagement can be strategic, and can be used by companies in developing countries to pursue long-term corporate interests. It has done so by showing that corporate stakeholder salience patterns are a reflection of a series of complex interactions between instrumental influences (business case) and industry influences on firm. Finally, by having a combined focus on the stakeholder and the enlightened self-interest theories, this thesis has addressed the dearth of CSR research that draws insights from both perspectives in order to have a better understanding of variations in corporate orientations towards societal issues.

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