Shareholders as Norm Entrepreneurs for Corporate Social Responsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 94 (2):177 - 191 (2010)


This article advances the idea that shareholders who seek to influence corporate behaviour can be understood analytically as norm entrepreneurs. These are actors who seek to persuade others to adopt a new standard of appropriateness. The article thus goes beyond studies which focus on the influence of shareholder activism on single instances of corporate conduct, as it recognises shareholders' potential as change agents for more widely shared norms about corporate responsibilities. The article includes the empirical example of US internet technology companies who, in their Chinese operations, face conflicts of norm systems in regard to freedom of expression on the internet. Shareholders have been active in seeking to persuade these companies to adopt a norm of adhering to global standards for human rights over restrictions implied by authoritarian regimes to which they deliver services

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