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The corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda has taken off since the 1980s, with both civil society and business actors involved in mobilising around it. This paper examines the reasons for civil society mobilisation on CSR issues, the types of organisations involved, and their different forms of activism and relations with business. It then identifies the ways in which big business is engaging with and shaping the CSR agenda, but questions whether this agenda can effectively contribute to development. The paper argues that the CSR agenda can deal with some of the worst symptoms of maldevelopment, such as poor working conditions, pollution, and poor factory-community relations, but that it does not deal with the key political and economic mechanisms through which transnational companies undermine the development prospects of poor countries. A final section considers how this agenda may evolve on the basis of recent developments in CSR activism and regulation.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis.

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