This paper examines how firms designed their CSR projects following the 2013 legal mandate for CSR spending in India.
Based on data for 86,755 CSR projects, we identify patterns regarding three design parameters relevant to strategic and social outcomes: the social causes, geographic locations, and implementation modes that firms chose.
These patterns point to a small subset of choices that dominate a multitude of options within each of these design parameters; this trend leads to the emergence of two CSR archetypes that differ dramatically in popularity. We then abductively contrast the observed patterns with theory on CSR to explore possible explanations.
The resulting insights inform research on CSR and corporate-NGO partnerships by showing how different theoretical mechanisms can jointly explain homogeneous decisions across firms. They also raise questions about the aggregate implications of firm decision-making in the CSR arena, informing policy discussions around legal mandates for CSR.