Corporate social responsibility as risk management: An instrumental case study on Santam Limited
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In a contemporary local context characterised by significant socio-economic challenges, exacerbated by rising systemic risks, and hampered by capacity constraints of the state, we examine the case for a strategic approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) as risk management for the public good. In this study, we propose that CSR could offer value as risk management to firm stakeholders and broader society, by aligning state, business, and societal objectives in tackling shared risk and by addressing some of the challenges associated with contemporary CSR practice. The objectives of this thesis were, therefore, twofold. First, to explain the relevance between the concepts of risk management and CSR and how a strategic approach to CSR as risk management may operate as a mechanism influencing practice and impact. Second, to analyse such an approach in practice to interrogate our propositions of CSR as risk management and to identify its key enabling and disabling factors. To achieve the first objective, we developed a theoretical and conceptual framework that positions CSR as a necessary and appropriate strategic risk management response to inefficient and inequitable markets. To achieve our second objective, we undertook an instrumental case study of Santam Limited and its proactive, pro-social risk management initiative, Partners for Risk and Resilience (P4RR). Using a critical realist case study approach, we interviewed 22 participants drawn from the company’s social and organisational contexts. Our findings suggest that the interaction of four principal stakeholder entities gave rise to P4RR: investors, company management, employees, and the state, and we would characterise the primary mechanism driving the Initiative as competitive pressures emanating from the market. Our findings broadly support our propositions that risk management is a useful analytical framework for CSR and, as a strategic approach, may encourage firm-wide integration of CSR practice and cooperation with salient stakeholders, while providing a rubric with which to evaluate its usefulness. Our findings are somewhat supportive of the proposition that such an approach may lead to a response to uncertainty that aligns more closely with economic risk management. Recommendations for future research include multiple case study analyses of different companies that engage in risk management for the public good. Strategically, we recommend the elevation of local government planning processes as a tool with which to align corporate pro-social activities to maximise the contribution to the public good.