“For me, customers are not responsible”: Consumers’ role and responsibility in governing companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility in the state-led developing country context of Malaysia


  • J.N. Tan Monash University, Australia


Consumers are increasingly being responsibilized for governing companies’ ethical, or corporate social responsibility (CSR), performance in developed countries. Little though is known about consumer responsibilization in developing countries, despite these countries’ rapid economic growth. This paper investigates consumer responsibilization in a non-Western developing country context where the state is a dominant economic and political actor. It draws from a qualitative study of 41 urban consumers in Malaysia. The analysis suggests an absence of state responsibilization of consumers for companies’ CSR conduct but consumer responsibilization for their self-protection. It highlights consumers’ national
institutional system as significantly influencing their CSR expectations and perception that developing country consumers have no social responsibility for governing CSR conduct. Consequently, it questions the feasibility of responsibilising developing country consumers for business governance. It proposes that the voices of ‘invisible’ stakeholders like developed country consumers need to be included in the business governance, CSR, and consumer social responsibility conversation for a more comprehensive understanding of these phenomena.
Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, consumer social responsibility, state-led developing countries, consumer boycotts, socially responsible consumer, ethical consumers, political consumerism, consumer inaction, neoliberal consumer responsibilization, consumer-citizens, Malaysia