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Corporate social responsibility practices in a developing country: Empirical evidence from Sri Lanka

The purpose of this thesis is to extend the understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance and disclosure practices, particularly from a developing country perspective. The study captures deeply rooted sociocultural influences affecting the CSR practice by managers of Sri Lankan companies, and makes a comparison with findings from those of a developed country, New Zealand. It also provides empirical insights into how CSR practices are shaped by both local and global forces. The empirical study of this thesis was carried out in two phases, adopting a mixed methodology approach. In the first phase, a questionnaire survey of listed companies was conducted to examine the current status quo of CSR practices. The questionnaire was adapted from one used in New Zealand, for comparative purposes. Following an interpretive paradigm in the second phase, follow-up interviews with senior managers were conducted and analysed to explore their own perspectives of adopting CSR practices. In the questionnaire survey, it was found that environmental CSR practices are disappointing compared to socially-related CSR practices; corporate managers’ personal values significantly drive the adoption of CSR practices and such values are more significant than other drivers in Sri Lankan-owned companies than in foreign-owned companies. The results of the comparative analysis led to the conclusion that the level of economic development of a country could be a possible predictor for the level of CSR practices, although further research evidence would be required to confirm this conclusion. Through analysis of indepth interviews, five defining characteristics pertaining to the CSR practices in Sri Lanka were identified as themes. Legitimacy theory, stakeholder theory, and institutional theory were drawn on to explore these themes and the interview evidence was explained through these multitheoretical perspectives. The CSR behaviour of the companies with international connections can be explained by employing these mainstream CSR theories to a greater extent than is the case with local companies. The thesis argued that Sri Lankan managers are inspired and influenced by the Sri Lankan culture and traditions of philanthropic giving (dana) which historically flourished within Buddhist teachings and ethics. In Sri Lanka, what was once referred to as “philanthropy” has now been refashioned as “sustainability” or “corporate social responsibility”. There have been few studies of CSR practices in developing countries. Those that have been conducted have lacked engagement with the organisations involved and have rarely tested the applicability of mainstream CSR theories. As a response, this thesis contributes to the literature by extending theoretical and empirical understanding of CSR practices.
Type of thesis
Fernando, S. J. (2013). Corporate social responsibility practices in a developing country: Empirical evidence from Sri Lanka (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8361
University of Waikato
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