The link between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and competitiveness has been examined mainly at the business level. The purpose of this paper is to improve conceptual understanding and provide empirical evidence on the link between CSR and competitiveness at the national level. We draw on an eclectic-synthetic framework of international economics, strategic management and CSR literatures to explore conceptually whether and how CSR can impact on the competitiveness of nations, and test our hypotheses empirically with a sample of 19 developed countries over a 6-year period. Our evidence suggests that CSR can make a significant positive contribution to national competitiveness, as measured by national living standards. We also find that countries with a relatively low innovation record can benefit more, as compared to highly innovative countries, by implementing nationwide CSR-based positioning strategies.