Not your problem? Exploring the relationship between problem formulation and social responsibility

  • Sveinung Jørgensen Faculty of Economics and Organisational Science, Lillehammer University College
  • Lars Jacob Tynes Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, decision making, problem formulation, stakeholder management


This article explores the relationship between organizationalproblem formulation and social responsibility. Thepurpose of the article is to illuminate how organizationalproblem formulations (1) determine the manner in whichthe organization attempts to solve the problem and (2)involve the ascription of significance to a group of stakeholdersseen as relevant for the organization. This has implicationsfor the degree to which they assume responsibilityfor those stakeholders. We discuss three dimensions ofresponsible decision making – rationality in goal attainment,reverence for ethical norms, and respect for stakeholders.Thereby, we arrive at an understanding of how differentorganizations in the same sector conceive of, andattempt to solve fundamental problems in the sector, aswell as how their assumed responsibility is reflected therein.We present and discuss a case that discusses keysimilarities and differences between two organizations inthe drug sector – a pharmaceutical company that producesmedicine for the treatment of drug addiction and a foundationworking with drug rehabilitation. We illuminatehow the two organizations base their activities on divergentformulations of the drug problem and how this ismanifested in their approach to the problem. We argue that this ultimately translates into differences in the inclusion of various stakeholdersin their problem space, and thereby the degree to which they assumeresponsibility for key stakeholders. This contributes to the corporate socialresponsibility literature by providing an in depth account of how problem formulationsshape organizational activities and determine the practical inclusionof stakeholders’ interests in the decisions and activities of organizations.

How to Cite
Jørgensen, S., & Tynes, L. J. (2011). Not your problem? Exploring the relationship between problem formulation and social responsibility. Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, 5(1), 31-50.
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