Understanding the long term success of UK construction firms: the extent and role of 'hidden' corporate social responsibility
Larsen, G., Phua, F. T. T. and Kao, C.-C. (2012) Understanding the long term success of UK construction firms: the extent and role of 'hidden' corporate social responsibility. In: Joint CIB W070, W092 and TG72 International Conference on Facility Management, Procurement Systems and Public Private Partnership - Delivering Value to the Community, 23-25 January 2012, Cape Town.
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The construction sector is often described as lagging behind other major industries. At first this appears fair when considering the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is argued that CSR is ill-defined, with firms struggling to make sense of and engage with it. Literature suggests that the short-termism view of construction firms renders the long-term, triple-bottom-line principle of CSR untenable. This seems to be borne out by literature indicating that construction firms typically adopt a compliance-based approach to CSR instead of discretionary CSR which is regarded as adding most value to firms and benefiting the broadest group of stakeholders. However, this research conducted in the UK using a regional construction firm offers a counter argument whereby discretionary CSR approaches are well embedded and enacted within the firms’ business operations even though they are not formally articulated as CSR strategies and thus remain 'hidden'. This raises questions in the current CSR debate. First, is ‘hidden’ CSR relevant to the long term success of construction firms? and to what extent do these firms need to reinvent themselves to formally take advantage of the CSR agenda?