Department of Social Anthropology

Norwegian energy companies abroad - Expanding the anthropological understanding of corporate social responsibility

How do Norwegian energy corporations handle corporate social responsibility when they invest abroad? A new project at the Department of Social Anthropology, led by Professor Ståle Knudsen, aims to explore this timely issue. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway and will involve partners from Christian Michelsen Institute, the University of Sussex, and others.


Main content

When Norwegian energy companies invest abroad - in projects that often involve contested environmental and social issues - they must relate to standards for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Recent anthropological work on CSR has mainly focused on privately owned companies and how they, particularly within the energy sector, increasingly bypass the state. In contrast, the largest Norwegian energy companies are wholly or partly state owned.

Considering that CSR often articulates typical neoliberal governance techniques, does it make a difference whether the corporate ethics of a company is framed in relation to a corporatist state and based in a ‘Nordic model of CSR’? This project will explore this question by focusing on the CSR work of three Norwegian energy companies, representing varying ownership models: Statkraft, Statoil and Det Norske Oljeselskap. We ask how CSR policies are shaped by the following factors: state ownership, the Nordic corporate model for company-state-society interaction, a globalized CSR discourse, resistance and negotiation in country of operation, and the materiality of energy and environment. 

Aiming to track empirically the production, circulation, reformulation and outcomes of CSR policy and practice, case studies will follow the whole chain in the CSR process and focus on company headquarters (in Oslo and London), the companies’ country offices, as well as the project sites and affected local communities in Canada, Greenland, Tanzania, Turkey, Indonesia and Kurdistan-Iraq.