A doctoral thesis describes the theory, practice and role of corporate social responsibility as a factor in competitiveness.


The attention companies pay to the outside world, in social as well as economic and terms, has become a consolidated asset for businesses which are supported by a robust culture of production. However, this does not mean “institutionalised goodwill” from business people and managers. In reality, building and managing corporate social responsiblity is a complicated undertaking, closely linked to the management of production.

This is Giovanni Simonelli’s assertion in his doctoral research thesis of Marketing and Business Management, presented at the University of Milano-Bicocca. It is a useful text if you want to understand the basic principles of intelligent and informed social responsibility.

Though the specific objective of Simonelli’s work is to “Analyse the importance of ideas of social responsibility and sustainability in the modern business economy and to verify the role it plays in creating the conditions needed for long-term success.”

Simonelli himself explains the structure of his work. “After an initial technical section on the role and importance of corporate social responsibility,” he writes, “The study takes an in depth look at the risks and costs associated with the use of strategies which have no connection with objectives of sustainability.” After the theory, the research then embarks on a path leading to a view of social responsiblility as an aspect of value creation for the company, based on three lines of action: social equity, environmental quality and widespread economic prosperity. Next, Simonelli describes the tools companies can use to give an account of their activities from a social perspective (social balance sheet and environmental balance sheet), and how these can be integrated into the economic balance sheet. The thesis then moves to an analysis of the management tools of corporate sustainability, from ethical principles to cost-benefit analysis.

His work concludes with an analysis of the dieselgate case involving Volkswagen.

Simonelli explains at the end of his research efforts: “For a long time, many companies have considered the resources spent on showing that they are sustainable not as a practical investment in order to maintain a competitive advantage (as it has actually been proven to be), but rather as a cost to be put up with because it functions as a way of implementing certain marketing strategies directed at creating specific competitive advantages in the short term.”He continues: “Corporate social responsibility is not a curse, but instead an opportunity to relaunch an innovative, modernised industrial system with greater prospectives for survival and growth.


Responsabilità sociale e costi della non sostenibilità nelle imprese globali (Social responsibility and costs of non-sustainability in global companies)

Giovanni Simonelli

Department of Economics, Quantitive Methods and Business Strategy, PhD in Marketing and Business Management, University of Milano-Bicocca, 2017