Society is feeling more and more concerned about the environment and social issues caused, among other things, by relocation and environmental dumping. Globalization has actually raised some ethical issues which peak levels were attained, socially speaking, when apparel companies were denunciated for using sweatshops in developing countries, and environmentally speaking, with Shell’s Brent Spar platform scandal. Consequently, companies started to think of how they could improve their image, even their way of doing business and started to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The purpose of this thesis is to understand why companies decide to engage in CSR and if CSR policies have impacts on firms’ financial performance. Thus, the research problem is the following: What characterizes Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and do they have an impact on financial performance?
In order to answer it, I will use first a review of the existing literature, then interviews performed with persons in charge of CSR/Sustainable Development (SD) in companies and opinion leaders will be analysed. To complement this part, a study on sustainability indexes followed by a specific outlook at the automobile sector and its impact on the environment will be undertaken.
The results show that Western multinational companies (MNCs) tend to be more and more engaged, with law pushing for that as well. Stakeholders have quite an influence on the process, but the main factor of success is the commitment of top management and the integration of CSR in corporate culture. Quantitative results are more mitigated and it cannot be clearly said that CSR favours or not financial performance. More prospective is needed to be definite in the answer.