Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 537–548 | Cite as

Exploring Employee Engagement with (Corporate) Social Responsibility: A Social Exchange Perspective on Organisational Participation



Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a recognised and common part of business activity. Some of the regularly cited motives behind CSR are employee morale, recruitment and retention, with employees acknowledged as a key organisational stakeholder. Despite the significance of employees in relation to CSR, relatively few studies have examined their engagement with CSR and the impediments relevant to this engagement. This exploratory case study-based research addresses this paucity of attention, drawing on one to one interviews and observation in a large UK energy company. A diversity of engagement was found, ranging from employees who exhibited detachment from the CSR activities within the company, to those who were fully engaged with the CSR activities, and to others who were content with their own personal, but not organisational, engagement with CSR. A number of organisational context impediments, including poor communication, a perceived weak and low visibility of CSR culture, and lack of strategic alignment of CSR to business and personal objectives, served to explain this diversity of employee engagement. Social exchange theory is applied to help explore the volition that individual employees have towards their engagement with CSR activities, and to consider the implications of an implicit social, rather than explicit economic, contract between an organisation and its employees in their engagement with CSR.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) Employees Engagement Social exchange theory (SET) 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Durham University Business SchoolDurham UniversityStockton on TeesUK
  2. 2.Newcastle Business SchoolNorthumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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