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The moral relationality of professionalism discourses: the case of corporate social responsibility practitioners in South Korea

Shin, H., Cho, C., Brivot, M. and Gond, J-P. ORCID: 0000-0002-9331-6957 (2021). The moral relationality of professionalism discourses: the case of corporate social responsibility practitioners in South Korea. Business and Society, doi: 10.1177/00076503211018666


Building a coherent discourse on professionalism is a challenge for corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners, as there is not yet an established knowledge basis for CSR, and CSR is a contested notion that covers a wide variety of issues and moral foundations. Relying on insights from the literature on micro-CSR, new professionalism, and Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006 [1991]) economies of worth framework, we examine the discourses of fifty-six CSR practitioners in South Korea on their claimed professionalism. Our analysis delineates four distinct discourses of CSR professionalism—strategic corporate giving, social innovation, risk management and sustainability transition—that are derived from a plurality of more or less compatible moral foundations whose partial overlaps and tensions we document in a systematic manner. Our results portray these practitioners as compromise makers who selectively combine morally distant justifications to build their own specific professionalism discourse, with the aim to advance CSR within and across organizations. By uncovering the moral relationality connecting these discourses, our findings show that moral pluralism is a double-edged sword that can bolster the justification of CSR professionalism but also threaten collective professionalism at the field level. Overall, our study suggests paying more attention to the moral relationality and tensions that underlie professional fields.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2021, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: micro-CSR; issue professionalism; moral justification; CSR practitioner; South Korea
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
Date available in CRO: 20 May 2021 08:38
Date deposited: 20 May 2021
Date of acceptance: 27 April 2021
Date of first online publication: 2 June 2021
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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