Greening the Field? How NGOs Are Shaping Corporate Social Responsibility in China

Susannah M. Davis, Dirk C. Moosmayer


China’s state-led model of corporate social responsibility (CSR) does not seem to present a promising environment for the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Nevertheless, we observe recent examples of NGO involvement in CSR initiatives. Chinese NGOs are using the CSR platform to challenge the environmental practices of firms operating in China. We take a field-theoretical approach that focuses on the agency of actors. We show how an international NGO proposes a new standard and how Chinese NGOs use local environmental information disclosure laws to engage with firms in the textile supply chain. We find that NGOs leverage the power of brands to influence the practices of Chinese suppliers. However, we find differences in the framing and tactics employed by international NGOs versus their Chinese counterparts. Field analysis helps better understand the actors in the field of CSR, along with their motivations and their resources, and it offers a useful perspective on civil society development in China.

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