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Multilevel approach for CSR and sport organizations

This is an excerpt from Understanding Sport Organizations 3rd Edition by Trevor Slack.

By Christos Anagnostopoulos and Jonathan Robertson

In a recent review on CSR, Aguinis and Glavas (2012) argued that multilevel and multidisciplinary approaches to examining CSR would offer a more complete understanding of the concept. In the following sections, we draw on this in order to structure our CSR discussion in relation to sport organizations. By so doing, the reader can form connections to the previously discussed theoretical perspectives (especially at the institutional and organizational level). In addition, we draw on sport and CSR literature with the purpose of inviting more questions rather than offering concrete answers for any of the following levels discussed. The goal for such an approach is to provide prospective sport scholars and practitioners with access points to key debates in CSR and sport literature.

Institutional Level

Scholarly activity on professional teams' social involvement has offered valuable insights into the environmental pressures that prompt organizations to engage in CSR practices. These pressures are amalgamated within both the institutional and organizational analysis levels. The institutional level addresses at least one element of Scott's (1995) three pillars of institutions, which are regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive systems (Aguinis & Glavas, 2012; Godfrey, 2009). Hoffman (1997, cited in Scott, 2013, p. 59) described that “each pillar forms a continuum moving from the conscious and legally enforceable (for example, regulation), to the unconscious and taken for granted (for example, cultural-cognitive systems).” Guided by institutional and stakeholder perspectives, this section will focus separately on each pillar to elaborate on social responsibility systems at institutional level of analysis.

Changes in the regulative environment for sport organizations can come from a variety of sources, including governments, leagues, interest groups, unions or associations, and various other stakeholder groups. At the institutional level, changes in regulation can have significant impacts on the social responsibility of elite sport organizations. For example, in 2012 the NFL introduced new rules guiding how gridiron football teams must respond to player concussion. The change was initiated from player associations and medical groups that showed how players who had suffered severe concussions during their playing career had a higher chance of developing brain injury (chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE] ) (Hanna & Kain, 2010). (For more information, see the Time Out “The NFL's Response to Concussion Injury.”) Another example of changes coming from government was the UK government's creation of the Football Foundation charity (Taylor, 2004). The change in the institutional environment led many English association football teams to create charitable foundations following the creation of the Football Foundation charity. The institutional environment in elite sport organizations is highly complex and subject to multiple regulatory regimes (e.g., laws of society, anti-doping, anti-corruption, governing body regulation specific to the sport). It is therefore imperative that organizations understand their external environment to avoid costly risks (noncompliance breaches) and capitalize on potential opportunities (changes in funding structures).

Normative systems occur simultaneously with regulative and cultural-cognitive elements at the institutional level. Scott (2013) described that normative systems are comprised of both values (desirable standards from which organizational behavior is assessed) and norms (the legitimate way society perceives things ought to be). Normative elements broadly conceptualize how society perceives certain obligations ought to be fulfilled. Often normative values are the precursor to society codifying laws and regulations and are therefore closely coupled with the above regulative systems (Carroll, 1979). Over the past century, several areas of institutional life have codified values and norms into laws and regulation in areas such as human rights, labor practices, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and more recently environmental issues (International Organization for Standardization [ISO] 26000, 2010). In sport organizations, a major shift has occurred in the area of environmental awareness. Trendafilova, Babiak, and Heinze (2013, p. 309) suggested that “scrutiny and regulation, and normative and associative pressures play a role in sport organizations' adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors. These forces seem to be working together and reinforcing one another, and often through the vehicle of the media, to create a broad trend around this [environmental] form of CSR.” As the chapter-opening scenario on the Philadelphia Eagles demonstrated, elite sport organizations are picking up on the environmental aspect of their social responsibility and even beginning to use opportunities strategically (Porter & Kramer, 2006, 2011). The changes in social norms regarding the environment have had widespread effect on sport organizations (Babiak & Trendafilova, 2011), college sport (Trendafilova, Pfahl, & Casper, 2013), major sporting events (Zhang, Jin, Kim, & Li, 2013), consumer perceptions of sport