The Moral Relationality of Professionalism Discourses: The Case of Corporate Social Responsibility Practitioners in South Korea

Hyemi Shin, Charles Cho, Marion Brivot, Jean-Pascal Gond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building a coherent discourse on professionalism is a challenge for corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners, as there is not yet an established knowledge basis for CSR, and CSR is a contested notion that covers a wide variety of issues and moral foundations. Relying on insights from the literature on micro-CSR, new professionalism, and Boltanski and Thévenot’s (1991/2006) economies of worth framework, we examine the discourses of 56 CSR practitioners in South Korea on their claimed professionalism. Our analysis delineates four distinct discourses of CSR professionalism—strategic corporate giving, social innovation, risk management, and sustainability transition—that are derived from a plurality of more or less compatible moral foundations whose partial overlaps and tensions we document in a systematic manner. Our results portray these practitioners as compromise makers who selectively combine morally distant justifications to build their own specific professionalism discourse, with the aim to advance CSR within and across organizations. By uncovering the moral relationality connecting these discourses, our findings show that moral pluralism is a double-edged sword that can not only bolster the justification of CSR professionalism but also threaten collective professionalism at the field level. Overall, our study suggests paying more attention to the moral relationality and tensions that underlie professional fields.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2021


  • CSR practitioners
  • Micro-CSR
  • Issue professionalism
  • Moral justification
  • South Korea

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