Transformational and transactional CSR strategies: Searching for change in the tourism industry

25th European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium, 2-4 Julio 2009
Despite a burgeoning social movement demanding sustainable tourism, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) remains fairly dormant in the Spanish tourism sector. Very few companies are even beginning to reflect on how to improve social and environmental practices at a strategic level. This article hopes to contribute to the growing discussion on CSR leadership by providing a framework for analysis of the sensemaking process in strategic CSR. Using four case studies of Spanish hotel chains which are sector leaders in terms of CSR, we contrast the different sensemaking approaches to strategic CSR of top management teams. Using leadership literature terminology, we propose to differentiate between two CSR strategies: transformational and transactional. Transformational strategies refer to the moral based and inspiring way of taking CSR through the organisation. Transactional strategies are contingent on the organisation?s ability to meet and respond to their stakeholders? reactions and changing expectations. The two approaches operate with different rational and forms of engagement with the stakeholders, legitimacy strategies and use distinct stories and symbols. Our argument is that both strategies are necessary for advancing change in the industry towards a sustainable model, since the first strategy provides innovation and inspiration for managers, while the second consolidates the CSR initiatives. The aim of this research is to contribute to the way managers and researchers alike understand the complex process of strategic CSR sensemaking, and to provide a framework for companies to reflect on how to lead change towards more sustainable practices.
Barcelona, España