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Development of a model of corporate social responsibility in Vietnam - How Vietnamese businesses perceive and practise CSR

Version 2 2017-07-18, 06:00
Version 1 2017-07-18, 06:00
posted on 2017-07-18, 06:00 authored by Tho Huu Nguyen
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has emerged as an important issue for organisations in recent years. Organisations are beginning to understand that apart from their economic responsibility to maximise profit, there are also social and environmental obligations. Much of the literature engaging with this issue occurs in the context of developed countries, while considerably less is known about CSR in the developing world. As such, it raises the question of whether CSR theories and frameworks originating from developed countries are applicable and meaningful for developing nations.

This thesis addresses a gap in understanding CSR in the developing country of Vietnam. The purpose of this study is to examine how Vietnamese businesses perceive and practise CSR. Drawing upon seminal CSR frameworks to guide the data analysis, this study seeks to understand the perception of CSR in Vietnam, why Vietnamese businesses undertake CSR, the processes and outcomes of CSR, and the very nature of CSR in Vietnam. In answering these research questions, the study utilises three frameworks: the CSR pyramid, the corporate social performance (CSP) model, and the strategic CSR framework. These three frameworks are integrated to establish the analytical framework for this research.

The study employs exploratory qualitative research with an abductive research strategy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-five Vietnamese companies (13 multi-national corporations and 12 Vietnamese-owned companies). The results indicate that the dominant understanding of CSR in Vietnam is philanthropic. Organisations undertake CSR as a result of legitimacy pressures and pressures from global companies. The process of undertaking CSR indicates a scattered approach, with limited environmental assessment and selective stakeholder engagement. Many companies do not employ comprehensive and quantifiable measurements to assess their CSR initiatives. Overall, the dominant nature of CSR in Vietnamese firms is altruistic and responsive, with limited evidence of strategic approaches. This study also reveals that ownership structure plays an influential role in shaping CSR; in particular, subsidiaries of multi-national companies demonstrate a more comprehensive understanding of CSR compared to Vietnamese-owned businesses.

This research study makes several contributions to the literature of CSR and especially the understanding of CSR in developing countries. It substantiates past claims that CSR in developing countries is substantially different to the developed world. Even among developing nations, CSR is perceived and practised in different ways. The study confirms that CSR in developing countries is less advanced compared to developed nations. Similar to other developing countries, the majority of the Vietnamese companies in this study perceive CSR as philanthropic responsibilities. This thesis also makes new contributions to the existing literature by developing a conceptual model of CSR in Vietnam.


Principal supervisor

Wendy Stubbs

Additional supervisor 1

Quamrul Alam

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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