Who Cares? : A Comparison of Consumer Perceptions of CSR Between Western and Eastern Europe
Abstract: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a topic that has been widely researched and is still a progressing and important subject to study. Many researchers have focused on the importance and risks of CSR but have been unsuccessful in conducting research that brings forth managerial implications regarding the challenges and complexity that comes from contextual differences. Furthermore, little attention has been assigned to consumer awareness, perception of CSR as well as analysing differences in related markets such as developed Western European countries (WECs) and emerging Post-Communist countries (PCCs) of Eastern Europe. This research is essential as theoretical ground and for managers to be able to successfully adapt and implement their CSR strategies to various markets, something that is beneficial for gaining a long-term competitive advantage. This study wishes to fill the existing research gap by gaining an insight into the differences in perceptions of CSR between consumers from WECs and PCCs. The outcomeof this study contributes to the existing frame of research regarding consumers’ perceptionson CSR and the importance of adapting a firm's CSR strategies to differentiating perceptions when operating in various international markets. The research was executed by using a qualitative method, carrying out three focus groups with participants originating from the two different regions respectively, and later mixed in a third group. The outcome from these focus groups was analysed using relatedtheoretical frameworks such as Carroll’s pyramid for corporate social responsibility (1991)and Dhanapal, Vashu, and Subramaniam (2015), who explores influencers affecting consumer perception. The findings conclude that CSR is gaining awareness among consumers across both regions, who agree that companies should be engaged in CSR, whereas members from PCCs desires a higher commitment than is currently done. Consumers are willing to pay a higher price when they know that the companies implement philanthropic projects. However, for WECs, this depends on the price of the product, and for PCCs, on whether the activities are locally implemented or not. Finally, this study concluded that companies can gain a competitive advantage by concentrating on social CSR in the PCC region and environmental CSR in the WEC region since the findings indicate that these are the most prioritised issues in each region. Furthermore, managers should adapt their CSR strategies based on these findings in order to relate to the consumer, create legitimacy, and gain trust.
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