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Corporate Responsibility Coalitions
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Corporate Responsibility Coalitions

The Past, Present, and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism 

David Grayson and Jane Nelson
January 2013   414+xxii pp   234 x 156 mm  
hardback   ISBN 978-1-906093-81-5   £24.95  

Alternative formats: eBook (ePub)   eBook (PDF)

Review copies   Inspection copies
The first book to chronicle the progress and potential of business-led corporate responsibility coalitions.

"an indispensable guide to the role played by business-led coalitions in generating and disseminating socially responsible business practices ... written by two seminal figures in the field" - John Ruggie

"a valuable book that collects a wealth of information that could accelerate the understanding of practical steps towards business-led coalitions. As this book almost covers whatever a person requires to know in this area and provides comprehensive information about the issue, nearly every line in it presents something new..." - CSR International Book Review Digest

Substantial discounts are available for bulk purchases of this title. Please contact us for more details.

North American customers please order from Stanford University Press.

Preview samples   Preface   Introduction

Foreword to Chinese edition

How coalitions can use this book

How business schools and schools of public policy can use this book

Winner of the Social Issues in Management (SIM) Best Book Award at the Academy of Management 2015

The significance of business-led corporate responsibility coalitions is indisputable. The WBCSD has 200 member companies with combined annual revenues of US$7 trillion; the UN Global Compact has almost 8,000 corporate members, over two-thirds of them from developing countries. It is estimated that there are more than 110 national and international generalist business-led CR coalitions. But there is now urgent need for informed and balanced analysis of their achievements, their progress and their potential.

Why did these coalitions start and grow? What have been their impacts? Where are they heading now? Where should they be going? What is the future? In a period of austerity, the business and public sector must decide whether funding these coalitions is a priority.

To meet current crises, there will have to be a great deal more business involvement; but efforts of individual corporations will not be sufficient. There is also a need for far more collective action among companies and more collaborative action between different sectors of society. Business-led CR coalitions with their decades of convening experience could play an important role in this process – if they are fit for purpose going forward.

Authors David Grayson and Jane Nelson have been actively involved in such coalitions for decades. In Corporate Responsibility Coalitions they first explore the past, present and future of these coalitions: the emergence of new models of collective corporate action over the past four decades; the current state of play, and the increasing number, diversity and complexity in terms of how they not only network with each other but also engage in a much broader universe of institutions that are promoting responsible business practices. In addition, the book provides in-depth profiles of the most strategic, effective and long-standing coalitions, including: Business for Social Responsibility; Business in the Community; CSR Europe; Instituto Ethos; International Business Leaders Forum; the UN Global Compact; and the WBCSD.

This book will be required reading for key supporters and potential partners of such coalitions in companies, governments, international development agencies, foundations, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and think-tanks. It also aims to inspire a future generation of leaders to be more aware of the role of business as a partner in driving more inclusive, green and responsible growth, and to help them develop new types of leadership skills so that they can be effective in finding multi-stakeholder solutions to complex and systemic challenges.

There is a growing focus by academics and others on concepts such as 'collective impact'; transformative partnerships; and global networks. Corporate Responsibility Coalitions is the first book provides the only thorough historic review of the business leadership networks that pioneered this approach, plus a forward-looking analysis on the role of collective business impact in future.

The authors have provided a Teaching Note for teachers in Business Schools and Schools of Public Policy to help design classes and courses around the themes and content of Corporate Responsibility Coalitions.


Video: interview with author David Grayson short clip | full version (look for “Book Interview”).


A live list of business-led Corporate Responsibility Coalitions and multi-stakeholder initiatives is available here.


Article: Smarter Collaboration , by David Grayson appeared in Management Focus. 


Essay: Sustainable capitalism and the potential of corporate responsibility coalitions by David Grayson and Jane Nelson appeared in Ethical Corporation.


A list of speaking events with the authors discussing the themes of the book is available here.



This book is a journey from the past to the future of responsible business. This collection provides major thoughts about the coalition between business and social responsibility. It covers a variety of issues within the CSR domain including health, enterprise development, and environment as well as attempts to present a practical platform for business-led corporate responsibility. For anyone who is interested in a collection of actions in this area, this book is a valuable source that allows one to evaluate the situation and it then leads the readers through the future of corporate responsibility activities. In doing so, current trends and the rise of corporate responsibility around the world are portrayed.

As a significant feature of the book, it covers various actions in different countries around the world and raises awareness of initiatives and actions that have been done in various parts of the world. In this respect, the book introduces international and national centres and a review of their activities. The other valuable work within the book is presenting corporate responsibility and categorizing them according to the countries. Furthermore, the book assesses the impacts of future economic trends and particularly developing economies on the future of corporate responsibility.In addition to the above, the book has a review of social responsibility views within the context of various religions that have received less attention in many similar works.

In addition to the chapters of the book that present history, trends and information that lead the reader to think about practical solutions for the future of corporate responsibility, the book also proposes some helpful guidelines for future practice. For instance, it highlights the importance of a different managerial perspective and the necessity for the development of future leaders.

Additionally, the profiles of ten international business-led corporate responsibility coalitions present examples of companies that can clarify the practicality of coalition for those who need this information.To conclude this piece, I would say this is a valuable book that collects a wealth of informationthat could accelerate the understanding of practical steps towards business-led coalitions. As this book almost covers whatever a person requires to know in this area and provides comprehensive information about the issue, nearly every line in it presents something new, requiring patient and careful reading to avoid missing valuable information.

Maryam Sadeghi, CSR International Book Review Digest


In the brouhaha surrounding the great debates on responsible business practice, the focus always seems to be on what individual companies are doing and which CEOs are the leaders  or on the ropes. Perhaps thats inevitable. We like our heroes and villains, to spot the good guys and condemn the baddies. This book helpfully reminds us that actually the big issues transcend any one company or hero leader. The deep-rooted sustainable solutions we need are usually to be found through cross-industry, indeed cross sector, working. That means most progress is made through collective action in alliances and coalitions. In fact thats a message at least one of the current individual heroes would heartedly endorse  as Unilevers Paul Polman keeps saying: If we achieve our own plans but no one joins us on the journey, well have failed. Think of issues like responsible investment, human rights, greenhouse gas emissions, health & safety, and the impact of community involvement, and look back at developments in the last decade: the role of organisations and initiatives in making progress becomes apparent  Equator Principles and Principles for Responsible Investment, UN Global Compact, WBCSD Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Responsible Care in the chemical industry and (here at Corporate Citizenship) our very own LBG standard.

David Grayson and Jane Nelson  both long-standing veterans of the responsible and sustainable business scene  have brought together in this book a wealth of material: profiles of 12 leading international coalitions, a history of the rise of corporate responsibility, an assessment of the current state of play and a 10 step agenda for action going forward. They draw on their own experience in business alliances to provide lessons and ask searching questions about effectiveness. They dont duck some elephant in the bedroom issues such as what to do about laggard members. Laggards are the weakest link of coalitions. They may be one reason why so few current coalitions are really pushing the boundaries on Capitalism 2.0  the new vision for responsible, well-regulated, socially useful capitalism that I for one yearn for. Its almost as if the global financial crisis never happened, despite the huge flaws it revealed and the massive economic damage it did.

On first opening the book, I instantly warmed to the subject, seeing its dedication to the memory of another of the big beast veterans of this movement, Robert Davies, who died tragically early in 2007. As deputy CEO of BITC, he was the first person to encourage me, when seeking career advice at the tender age of 27, to apply my business skills to the task of changing the world  my palpable lack of progress since then would only spur his enthusiasm to try harder.

The proposition in this book is that coalitions can help speed up making progress and theres much to learn from past experience. If I had a criticism, its not about the book, but instead directed at those of us active in the wider world of coalitions and alliances  that we are not blunt enough about the limitations and dont work hard enough to overcome them. The biggest limitation is surely that individual companies like getting the credit for their efforts, and are reluctant to share the limelight  and given the criticisms routinely heaped on companies, its hard to blame them for wanting to keep hold of good news. But the price is less progress overall. Another is that regulators are naturally suspicious when companies get together to hatch plans to intervene in competitive markets  anti-cartel legislation is rightly tight. Designed to stop bad collusions, it hinders well-motivated co-operative action as well. NGOs too are quick to cry foul when companies sit down together, fearing some behind-the-scenes lobbying is being cooked up in contradiction to their individually-stated laudable intents. One solution is to conduct coalition business as openly as possible, and with as many sectors and stakeholders at the table as possible. But that requires high levels of trust among individual participants, a clear focus on outcomes, and good brokers with the right skills to strengthen bonds, overcome obstacles and drive processes forward. What will force the pace? Perhaps the only good thing to be said about the looming ecological and social crises is that they may spur a new generation of alliance-building that works across sectors and involves many stakeholders. By learning from the past, this book offers us pointers to that future.

My advice is simple. One  buy the book. Two  resolve to invest some of your time and energy in collaborative working. Three  be a little less focused on claiming credit for your own company, and a little more on boosting collective endeavour. Like that we can all help change the world a little faster.

Mike Tuffrey , Corporate Citizenship Briefing


This book is an indispensable guide to the role played by business-led coalitions in generating and disseminating socially responsible business practices. Written by two seminal figures in the field, it provides a comprehensive overview of what these coalitions have, and have not, achieved in aligning markets with the broader goals of social and environmental sustainability. It points to what needs to happen next if we are to get from here to there. Highly recommended for all who care about these issues – and everyone should!
John Ruggie, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government


I learned new things from this interesting and thorough review. Corporate responsibility coalitions are globally important: this book covers comprehensively the past, the present, and the challenges for their future.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman, Global Compact Foundation


Corporate Responsibility Coalitions both captures the richness and diversity of a unique social movement as well as offering an exciting future vision of what more these coalitions could do. Anyone interested in the role that business can play to help tackle global problems will study carefully the agenda for action.
Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE, Vice President, Business in the Community, UK


David Grayson and Jane Nelson’s Corporate Responsibility Coalitions lifts up a much-overlooked aspect of business coalitions as a critical feature of the evolving role of business in society. While providing a rich history of the development of these coalitions and in-depth case examples, the book’s real value lies in its analysis of what is driving these coalitions at this point in time, and the potential they have in resetting corporate responsibility in the era ahead. Corporate Responsibility Coalitions opens up some new thinking about the role of business, and coalitions’ collective opportunity to co-create shared innovation just in time to provide the business community with a potent instrument for building sustainable business.
Bradley Googins, Former Director, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship; Senior Visiting Fellow, Deusto University, Business School Bilbao, Spain


Corporate responsibility coalitions play a vital role in helping businesses like ours accelerate the pace of change and engage our employees in sustainability. Responsible business is not just a moral imperative; it is essential to be a part of the solution, and core business engagement is fundamental to retain our license to operate.
Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, CEO, Citi Transaction Services


Corporate Responsibility Coalitions is an important and necessary read for those who lead, practice, teach, and influence corporate behavior. David Grayson and Jane Nelson tell a story that too few know: the story of corporate-led coalitions and the role they played and continue to play in redefining the role of business in society. It is a story of social innovation at its best. Our future depends on understanding the complex relationships and breakthrough interactions that allowed the environmental and social gains over the last 30 years to be realized. Understanding these powerful coalitions and learning as much as we can from them will be essential in creating a more just and sustainable world.
Cheryl Y. Kiser, Executive Director, The Lewis Institute & Babson Social Innovation Lab, Office of the President, Babson College


Two of the most experienced practitioners in the field have compiled a 40-year survey of business-led coalitions – now numbering some 110 – that promote corporate social responsibility. With a panoramic overview of the field, covering the past, surveying the present, and setting an agenda for the future, this comprehensive volume makes the case for collective business action and a “coalition methodology” as an effective means for tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems. In-depth profiles of 12 of these coalitions document impact and lessons learned as well as potential paths forward. An invaluable resource for anyone interested in the collaborative aspects of CSR.
Steve Lydenberg, Founding Director, Initiative for Responsible Investment, Harvard Kennedy School of Government


This is a challenging book. It reveals companies voluntarily cooperating to promote sustainability and ethical behavior. It thus throws out a challenge to our simple economic models, which treat companies as myopic profit maximizers. This “counterfactual” study deserves debate amongst economists everywhere.
David Pitt-Watson, Founder and Former Chair, Hermes Equity Ownership Service


Jane Nelson and David Grayson have been part of the vanguard of corporate social responsibility for decades. In this book they explore collective business action and wrestle with critical questions of leadership, governance, and resource mobilization. We should all applaud their extraordinary thought leadership and contribution to this field.
Michele Kahane, Professor of Professional Practice, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy


I found especially interesting the approach concerning the close link between Corporate Responsibility and value creation for society and the company itself.  I also appreciated the insights on the relevance of innovation as a source of solutions to todays complex challenges and to help build solid foundations for future generations.  Finally, I am convinced of the importance and relevant role of coalitions and the need for a collaborative approach in the business community.
Ignacio S Galan, Chairman & CEO, Iberdrola



This item available in PDF format for free download     Download



This item available in PDF format for free download     Download


PART I. The Past: The emergence of new models of collective business leadership

1. The rise of the corporate responsibility movement
2. The definition of business-led corporate responsibility coalitions
3. The evolution of business-led corporate responsibility coalitions
4. Global trends and motivations driving the growth of corporate responsibility coalitions
5. The leadership role of individual champions, companies and foundations in building the coalitions

PART II. The Present: Assessing the impact of coalitions today

6. The number and diversity of corporate responsibility coalitions
7. Coalitions as part of a broader ecosystem promoting responsible business
8. The key roles of corporate responsibility coalitions
9. How coalitions organize themselves
10. Networking among the coalitions
11. Assessing the impact of coalitions

PART III. The Future: The leadership challenge for corporate responsibility coalitions

12. The need for greater corporate responsibility and collective action
13. An agenda for action for corporate responsibility coalitions
14. Are corporate responsibility coalitions fit for the future?
15. Recommendations and conclusion


1. Business for Social Responsibility
2. Business in the Community
3. CSR Europe
4. Instituto Ethos
5. International Business Leaders Forum
6. Maala–Business for Social Responsibility
7. National Business Initiative for Growth, Development and Democracy
8. Philippine Business for Social Progress
9. World Business Council for Sustainable Development
10. World Environment Center
11. United Nations Global Compact
12. World Economic Forum

Appendix 1. Corporate responsibility time-line
Appendix 2. Research methodology
Appendix 3. GlobeScan coalition survey and survey respondents


David Grayson

David Grayson is Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield University. He is a Contributing Editor to The Corporate Citizenship Briefing ( and a regular columnist for Ethical Corporation ( ).

Jane Nelson

Jane Nelson is Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a Senior Associate of Cambridge University’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership.