Signposts or weathervanes? The curious case of corporate social responsibility and conflict minerals

Ozlem Arikan, Juliane Reinecke, Crawford Spence, Kevin Morrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corporate social responsibility is often framed in terms of opposing constructions of the firm. These reflect, respectively, different accounts of its obligations: either to shareholders or to stakeholders (who include shareholders). Although these opposing constructions of corporate responsibility are diametrically opposed, they are also much more fluid and mobile in certain contexts, since they can act as discursive resources that are deployed and brought into play in the struggle over shaping what responsibility means. They are less the fixed, ideological “signposts” they might appear, and more like “weathervanes” that move alongside changing rhetorical currents. To show this, we analyse the Securities and Exchange Commission consultation process, and legislation, relating to the provenance of “conflict minerals”. We identify two dialectically opposed camps, each seeking to influence final legislation and with end goals in keeping with the shareholder/stakeholder dichotomy. One camp lobbied for firms to scrutinize their entire supply chain, constructing the firm as a “global citizen” with very wide social responsibilities. The second camp lobbied for a lighter touch approach, constructing the firm as a “trader”, with much narrower social responsibilities. We analyse the complex interplay between these two opposed camps, our contribution being to show how both deploy competing conceptions of the corporation as discursive resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-484
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date16 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2015. Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Auditing
  • Conflict minerals
  • Disclosure
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Corporate social responsibility


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