Firms from both advanced and emerging countries are under growing pressure to adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. Moreover, since the release of the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights in 2011, the respect and promotion of universal human rights is becoming the new frontier in CSR research. This project aims to assess the degree to which the mounting adoption of CSR policies by firms worldwide also comes with firms’ heightened respect of human rights. This is a relevant question for international business, business ethics and management literatures interested in understanding the substantial vs. symbolic meaning of CSR. It is also relevant for policy makers at the EU level (and beyond that) since Member States are urged to develop action plans for the implementation of the Guiding Principles. Our team uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate, among others, the following issues:
  • Substantial vs. symbolic nature of CSR in both advanced and developing countries’ firms;
  • CSR strategies of Emerging Market Multinational Enterprises (EMNEs);
  • Content analyses of CSR reports;
  • International Business and human rights;
  • CSR and human rights in Global Value Chains and developing countries’ industrial clusters;
  • Creating genuine Shared Values in developing countries' industrial clusters;
  • Socio-environmental impacts of EMNEs' operations in Europe.


The project uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
  • Our quantitative analyses are based on two original datasets containing information on firm-level adoption of CSR initiatives (social policies, CSR reporting, GRI reporting, UNGC adherence and UNGC financial support); human right conduct (events of alleged human rights abuses based on the Business & Human Rights Resource Center and Sustainalytics); foreign direct investments, financial data, patent data, media exposure. The first database (SUSDATA1) includes information over the period 1990-2012 on a sample of 140 randomly selected firms from Forbes Global 2000 from the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and South Korea. The second database (SUSDATA2) includes information over the period 2003-2011 on a sample of 250 public companies from Brazil, India, Russia, China, Mexico, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
  • Our qualitative analyses counts on a qualitative dataset which has codified information on CSR reports issued by the firms in our samples. We do also conduct case study research on selected spots in the world.


This project is currently funded with a Research Grant by the University of Pisa (PRA_2015_0082) and it has in the past benefited from financial support provided by the Master of Science in Economics (University of Pisa and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies); and the Jörg Meyer-Stamer Scholarship.