Making Sense of Mandatory CSR: An Empirical Investigation

  • Namita Shete

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The aim of this research is to understand the extent to which mandatory CSR can redress some of the systemic problems associated with voluntary articulations and practice of CSR. Based on the empirical context of the Indian CSR law (Company’s Act 2013, Section 135) enforced in 2014 which mandates organisational engagement (and spend) in CSR with suggested areas in which companies can undertake their CSR activities, this research aims at investigating: one, how mandatory CSR as a whole through legal means is made sense of by the implementing actors; two, how such an approach to CSR unfolds in practice; and three, how those who are intended to benefit through these practices are in fact influenced. Using the theoretical lens of sensemaking and using a flexible and adaptable exploratory and inductive qualitative research approach, this research therefore focuses on how meanings, interpretations and understandings have changed (or have been changing) due to mandatory CSR activity resulting from the law. It focuses on understanding how the process of sensemaking has been influencing the evolution of CSR practices within organisations, along with the perceptions of benefits arising from them according to groups within and outside the organisational boundary.

Findings suggest that mandatory CSR, as regulated by the Indian government, has done little to address the problems associated with voluntary CSR approaches, and is in-fact perhaps a less desirable alternative and approach to CSR. This is because it has legitimised and helped consolidate CSR as external welfare. Alongside there is flexibility in the extent of involvement and fuelling or maintenance of power imbalances with generation of unintended beneficiaries. This approach, in and of itself, therefore does not appear to be sufficient to improve CSR practice. It is therefore suggested that there needs to be a fundamental rethinking of how the different sectors (Corporate, NGOs and the Government) work together, and a reconsideration of the processes that are mandated in-order to better channel core-competencies for better CSR outcomes.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Colville (Supervisor) & Krista Bondy (Supervisor)

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