Corporate Social Responsibility in the Swedish Financial Services Sector : Translating an Idea into Practice

Sammanfattning: This thesis focuses on how popular ideas in society influence corporate behavior, as corporations adapt to normative ideas in society in order to achieve legitimacy. However, we need more knowledge about how ideas influence organizations and what happens when ideas enter in an organizational context. Hence, this thesis deals with the following research question: ‘How do actors transform ideas on being socially and environmentally responsible into practice?’ This question is studied empirically within corporations in the Swedish financial services sector. The thesis contributes to organizational institutional theory and to knowledge on the translation of ideas in organizational contexts.Based on analyses of the empirical observations six translation processes are identified. Incorporation is used to incorporate already legitimate external CSR elements into the organization. Localizing is used to give an idea local character by inscribing the idea into the history of the organization. De-coupling is used to translate ideas simultaneously and over time by adjusting the presentation of the organization’s business according to the relevant audience. Co-optation is used to incorporate external actors with know-how and legitimacy into internal processes. Organizing is used to gain internal acceptance for the idea. Blending is used to translate the idea into a modest adaptation to make it fit existing practice in the firm’s core business.Several of these translation processes are at work at the same time. As demonstrated in the study, new ways of presenting the organization as well as new activities appear as outcomes of translation. Translation processes that both influence presentation and practice are necessary for gaining legitimacy for the idea.The adoption of CSR in the studied financial services corporations could only partly be strategically planned. Results from the study also point to unintended and unexpected consequences of integrating social and environmental responsibility.