The defeat of communism as an economic ideology has left capitalism, in all its varieties as the triumphant global economic system. Yet as writers from within the French regulation school have long noted, though capitalism is an efficient and powerful generator of wealth it also has a tendency towards crisis: markets fail, companies externalise costs and social conflict and suffering ensues. In this chapter we critically examine the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement and explore its capacity to influence employment relations processes at the workplace, corporate and societal levels. We contend that the CSR movement should be admitted as a new actor in employment relations but also acknowledge a number of difficulties and ongoing controversies which will need to be overcome if its influence is to be sustained. Further, the chapter will contend that CSR is an actor that has resonance across national boundaries; it has reach to the transnational operations of global corporations and it has leverage in countries that have limited labour rights and standards. The CSR movement also offers the potential for new coalitions to emerge at the workplace and within national and global employment relations regimes. The analysis begins with a discussion of key theories that underpin the CSR movement. These theories are important in explaining the presence and purchase of the CSR movement. After this, we undertake a detailed exploration of the key drivers and levers of CSR including socially responsible investment and the concomitant codes and reporting systems. Three vignettes from the extractive, building products and footwear sectors are then introduced to demonstrate CSR's capacity to influence employment relations processes and outcomes. Vignettes are typically less comprehensive than full case studies but have the utility of concisely conveying quite complex issues through critical incidents. The vignette approach was used by Murray et al. (2000) in their study of the impact of globalisation in re-regulating labour in the Canadian context. Following these writers, we argue that these vignettes permit 'analytic generalisations' (Yin 1989) of the CSR movement's influence within employment relations.
New Employment Actors: Developments from Australia p. 195-221