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Abstract

The social responsibility of businesses has developed into a highly debated issue in recent years. Especially in agribusiness, recent scandals as well as information asymmetries concerning food production have led to high external pressure on firms from the wider public. Being confronted with a variety of stakeholder goals and relationships, it could be particularly advantageous for enterprises in agribusiness to pursue a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Based on a literature review, we introduce a conceptual framework that provides insights into the determinants of CSR and its effects, in particular, on the legitimacy and reputation, and finally, the performance of enterprises in agribusiness. This contingency-theoretic approach allows a more thorough analysis of CSR strategies and has guided an empirical study. In 2008, 170 German agribusiness companies responded to an online survey, using a standardized questionnaire. The empirical findings provide in-depth insights into the perception of external pressure in various fields linked to food production (for instance, use of genetically modified organisms), the understanding of social responsibility by the agribusiness companies surveyed and the way CSR is integrated into the firms’ strategic management. We also present three clusters of companies that differ with regard to their dominant motives for pursuing CSR strategies.

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