From vicious to virtuous circles: problem structuring for quantified decision making in operationalization of Corporate Social Responsibility

Jolanta Poplawska, Ashraf Wasfi Labib, Deborah Margaret Reed

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There is no formalized approach for problem structuring and quantitative decision support to operationalise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) implementation. In this paper, techniques for considering criteria relationships are outlined and a holistic, systematic framework combining a qualitative and quantitative method for practical CSR integration is provided. Cognitive mapping (CM) is applied to structure the problem picture, and the cause effect relationships between decision elements. Soft CM methodology is employed to assess the cross-criteria interactions, at both an individual and a collective level. The interactions of criteria can have a significant impact upon CSR implementation. Such impacts can be direct or indirect through their close linkages to other criteria. The causal strategic map serves as an input to the Analytic Network Process (ANP) to carry out the multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). Then, CM and ANP are applied in a comparative analysis to verify whether the measures of criteria significance do correspond. The key criteria in networks are identified using centrality in CM and single limited priorities in ANP. This study demonstrates that using criteria without considering their interactions will result in shortcomings in the evaluation and assessment of CSR programmes. The holistic framework, combining CM and ANP proposed in this work, enhances the process of problem structuring and supports preference-based evaluation of decision alternatives. The results of our study yield that the mapping procedure has an influence on the criteria significance in networks. The correspondence between CM and ANP is stronger when cause-relationships are rigidly interpreted. More unambiguous interpretations of causal relations can be achieved if methods are used jointly and common peaks of importance in both CM and ANP could potentially serve as indications of key decision elements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-307
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number3
Early online date7 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • WNU
  • Cognitive mapping (CM)
  • Analytic Network Process (ANP)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • criteria interactions


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