Corporate Citizenship Fact, fad or fiction?



In this seminar, we will critically discuss the notion of corporate citizenship and investigate whether this idea makes any sense. Two papers will be presented, which are both (to be) published in the Academy of Management Review. The first paper has already been published, and is a research note in which a conceptualization of the notion of Corporate Citizenship is developed from a conceptualization of citizenship established in political science.* The second paper is a critical review of the first, and is forthcoming as a dialogue paper in the Academy of Management Review. The authors of the first paper are given the opportunity to respond to this criticism in another dialogue paper, for which they hope to harvest valuable insights in the seminar.


Corporations and Citizenship

Andrew Crane, Notingham University

Dirk Matten, University of London


Building on our 2005 AMR paper, we investigate whether, in theoretical terms, corporations can be citizens. The argument is based on the observation that the debate on 'corporate citizenship' (CC) has only paid limited attention to the actual notion of citizenship. Where it has been discussed, authors have either largely left the concept of CC unquestioned, or applied rather unidimensional and decontextualized notions of citizenship to the corporate sphere. This article critically examines the content of contemporary understandings of CC and locates them within the extant body of research dealing with business-society relations. Two conventional views of CC are catalogued - a limited view that largely equates CC with strategic philanthropy, and an equivalent view that conflates CC with CSR. Significant limits and redundancies are identified in these views, and the need for an extended theoretical conceptualization is highlighted. The main purpose of the article is thus to realize a theoretically informed definition of CC that is descriptively robust and conceptually distinct from existing concepts in the literature.


The paper explores the potential of citizenship thinking by reflection on the liberal as well as the republican tradition in political science. Based on liberal citizenship, we suggest an 'extended perspective' on CC which conceptualizes CC as the administration of a bundle of individual citizenship rights - social, civil and political - conventionally granted and protected by governments. We then move on to more richer notions of citizenship as found in the republican heritage by using the four-dimensional framework of democratic citizenship offered by Stokes (2002). The analysis finds some possibilities for fit with the three more participatory models. The paper concludes by cautioning against basing corporate citizenship on legal and administrative status or identity, and mapping out specific criteria by which we might determine whether corporations could be considered as citizens by virtue of their participation in processes of governance.


* Matten, D., & Crane, A. 2005. Corporate citizenship: Toward an extended theoretical conceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 30(1): 166-179.



Corporate Citizenship; an idea whose time has not yet come.

J. (Hans) van Oosterhout, RSM, Erasmus University

(Forthcoming in the Academy of Management Review)


For both papers and further information contact: J. (Hans) van Oosterhout at 010-4089174 or at