The contribution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) to social development in a developing context: A case of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Katia Schlipfenbacher

Student thesis: Phd


Multinational corporations (MNCs) are increasingly seen as playing an important role in social development by means of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The contribution of MNCs to such development has however been contested. Moreover, little local information is available about how MNCs shape CSR activities, the nature of the resulting institutional processes, and the development outcomes. The case of Brazil merits special attention because, while MNCs engage actively in CSR activities across Latin America, they are particularly active in Brazil. The aim of this study is critically to explore the ways in which institutional factors mediate the CSR activities of MNCs targeted at disadvantaged communities. Focusing on the Brazilian capital, Rio de Janeiro, the study seeks to answer the following overall research question: How does the context of Rio de Janeiro influence the social development-oriented initiatives of multi-national corporations? This results in the following research objectives: (1) To identify the kind of social development-oriented CSR initiatives in which MNCs in Rio de Janeiro engage. (2) To identify the institutional factors that influence social developmentoriented CSR initiatives of MNCs in the context of Rio de Janeiro. (3) To critically examine how these institutional factors influence the formation, process and impact of the social development-oriented CSR initiatives of MNCs in Rio de Janeiro. To address these objectives, a qualitative case-study was conducted, employing face-to-face and synchronous online semistructured interviews together with secondary data and template-analysis supported by NVivo, and using the theoretical lens suggested by John L. Campbell (2007). The study finds that corporations, employer associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can indeed play a significant role in fostering initiatives oriented at social development in Brazil. It also finds that the severe marginalisation of some social groups in Brazil provides MNCs with a strong motivation to engage in social initiatives, but that macro-economic and financial stability play a less important role than might be expected. The study concludes that, whereas in Brazil MNCs do indeed contribute to social development, They are unable on their own to resolve the problems of poverty and social inequality. Overall, the research makes an empirical contribution by contextualising CSR within a local and broader national institutional framework in both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. The study has the potential to contribute to both policy and practice, raising awareness of the influence of institutions on company activities, and helping MNCs better to disseminate CSR practices and to align and plan their operational strategy regarding CSR practices more effectively. Future research might combine institutional theory with other theories to examine the internal and external factors jointly influencing CSR practices. This might be done by focusing on a specific sector in Brazil or on individual organisations. Such future research might also develop a quantifiable connection between social developmentoriented initiatives and poverty-reduction.
Date of Award6 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Duncombe (Supervisor) & Kelechi Ekuma (Supervisor)


  • Brazil
  • Business in Development
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Multinationals
  • Rio de Janeiro

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