Beyond Compliance – Below Expectations? Cross-Border CSR, Development and the UN Global Compact.

Ralf Barkemeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, the results of an empirical analysis of a set of 416 descriptive case studies published by corporate members of the UN Global Compact are presented. Although these cases cannot be viewed as representative of the Compact itself or of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and development in general, they can illustrate which kinds of projects are deemed appropriate as best practice examples among Compact members, and therefore indicate the direction, in which predominantly voluntary and business-led CSR might at best be evolving. To help contextualize the analysis, the paper starts with a brief overview of recent academic work on the strengths and limitations of CSR in the light of international development, followed by the empirical analysis of Compact case studies. The results raise doubts regarding the general suitability of contemporary CSR initiatives to tackle some of the most pressing developmental challenges. Instead, only certain topics are commonly addressed, while a number of issues such as anti-corruption measures or labour rights are underrepresented in the case study sample. Regarding the target regions of the best practice examples, the majority is reported on activities based in OECD countries and a small number of emerging markets such as South Africa, India or China, while neglecting other regions such as sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa). From a European Union policy perspective, these results indicate that there is a role to play for the state in order to create a better fit between CSR agendas and the actual developmental needs in the South.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalBusiness Ethics: A European Review
Volume18 (3)
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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