The Smoke and Mirrors Game of Global CSR Reporting

The Smoke and Mirrors Game of Global CSR Reporting

Issues and Fixes

By Anil Hira

This book examines the reporting systems for corporate social responsibility. It finds an array of flaws that prevent any clear and objective evaluation of corporate behavior, impeding the possibilities for activist investors to make ethical choices.

EPUB, 152 Pages


May 2023

£0.00, $0.00

PDF, 152 Pages


May 2023

£0.00, $0.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is a deeply embedded concept in Western society. It embodies the idea that corporations have an ethical responsibility to society beyond financial return and beyond their immediate shareholders. CSR organizations, contractors and reporters have proliferated in recent decades as activist pressure around labor rights, equity and environmental destruction including climate change has ramped up.

This book examines international regimes working to monitor CSR, such as The Global Compact and the EITI. We find the organizations rife with conflicts of interest, lacking the means of verifying information reported by corporations, and unable to enforce transgressions of the largest corporations in any meaningful way. We then turn to the burgeoning reporting industry that informs socially responsible investment, using a test case of severe human rights violations leading to death. In these cases, we find that while the incidents are reported, they are obscured in the reporting system and have very tangential and fleeting effects on CSR ratings. This underscores the overall lack of accountability for corporations that violate their ethical commitments, and the lack of credit for those who step up to them.

We close the book with a series of suggestions about how to reform the CSR regime so that ethical investors and consumers can begin to have confidence that the corporations they select to support will begin to live up to their promises. Until there is transparency and objectivity, CSR will remain a smoke-and-mirrors game of marketing over ethical responsibility.


“A careful reading of this book demonstrates clarity, breadth, and depth of analysis of the vital concept of CSR reporting. Anil Hira masterfully documents how CSR reporting schemes are incomplete, unaccountable, and produce questionable effects on corporate behavior. I enthusiastically recommend this book for both academics and practitioners.” —Dr. Archie B. Carroll, Professor Emeritus of Management, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, USA.

“Through an extensive combing of databases and case studies, Anil Hira spells out in detail how voluntary reporting and CSR initiatives have failed to provide accurate information on firms’ practices. He makes a convincing case that only credible—and publicly available—data can change the incentives facing corporate decision-makers and investors.” —Sandra Polaski, Senior Research Fellow, Boston University Global Development Policy Center, USA.

“Making an ethically informed case for greater transparency and accountability, this erudite study presents a comprehensive and critical appraisal of global corporate social responsibility reporting. Of particular interest is Hira’s insightful exploration of the complex nexus of global governance, human rights, and CSR. Transdisciplinary in scope, this excellent book deserves a broad audience.” —Professor Manfred B. Steger, University of Hawai’i and author of Globalization: A Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2023).

“This book is a refreshing critique of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that exposes its various shortcomings. It also offers a compelling argument for how standardization and accountability can help improve the effectiveness of CSR. This is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate on how businesses can make a positive impact on society.” —Dr. Kerem Öge, Teaching Fellow in Climate Change and Public Policy, University of Warwick, UK.

"Anil Hira does a great job at highlighting the fundamental limitations of the present CSR reporting system. Investigating numerous instances of serious human rights violations, the analysis convincingly demonstrates the lack of accountability provided by CSR and the absence of discernible effects on actual corporate behavior or socially responsible investment. Importantly, Hira does not stop at this analysis of CSR’s shortcomings, but develops actionable proposals for reform based on the power of information and transparency."—Professor Doris Fuchs, University of Münster, Germany.

Author Information

Anil (Andy) Hira is a professor of political science at Simon Fraser University. Author of over 90 peer-reviewed publications, he focuses on political economy and climate change. 


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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables; Acknowledgments; Introduction: Overview of the Book and Theoretical Concepts; 1. Corporate Social Responsibility: A Good Deed in Name; 2. The Shell Game of Global CSR Reporting; 3. Socially Responsible Investment Reporting: A Lucrative and Growing Business; 4. How Human Rights Violations Are Systematically Downplayed in SRI Systems; 5. Conclusion; References; Appendix A; Index


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