Project code



Portsmouth Business School

Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project, to commence in October or February.

This PhD in Business and Management will be based in the Department of Organisation Study and Human Resource Management at Portsmouth Business School and will be supervised by Dr Le Bo, Dr Dan Shen and Dr Roza Sagitova.

The Faculty of Business and Law offers funding to attend conferences (currently £550), training (currently £450), and a work-based placement (currently a maximum of £3,000 tied up to the period of 12 weeks).

The work on this project will:

  • Conduct a comprehensive and systematic literature review on corporate social and environmental governance;
  • Develop a framework to assess CSR practices adapting to the varieties of governance across the different countries;
  • Focus on a qualitative research with organisational case studies in the developing countries;
  • Engage in Sustainability and the Environment research theme at the University of Portsmouth.

Over the past two decades, developing countries have experienced a fast pace of economic and industrialisation development but stayed at an early stage of sustainable development and CSR-isation (Sum, 2010). In order to investigate the shifts of CSR-isation in the unique context of particular developing country/countries, an organisational framework - corporate social responsibility (CSR) governance – is established.

In the process of CSR governance, states are never absent, for example, in China (Bo et al., 2019) and in Chile (Maher et al., 2019). The governmentality lens with a systematic way of exercising power and authority (Foucault, 2008), has an immense contribution to make to the study of CSR (Vallentin and Murillo, 2011) and governing social and environmental issues (Spence and Rinaldi, 2014). However, with a much-discussed shift from government to governance recently (Bo et al., 2019), more and more organisation and management studies (OMS) scholars suggest a bottom-up understanding of the increasing power of business and civil society actors in the process of CSR-isation, for example, in Congo (Reinecke and Ansari, 2016) and in Brazil (Cruz and Boehe, 2010).

Based on a qualitative case study approach with good access to organisations in governance in one or two targeted developing countries, it will be a worthwhile project to interrogate whether government rationalities and practices have played a major role in governmentalising CSR, or the business CSR initiatives and its wider power relations with the main stakeholders are more important in leading a responsive governance in the targeted developing country/countries. This project will be an important point of interest for academics, policymakers, business managers and NGO activists alike.


Bo, L., Böhm, S. and Reynolds, N.-S. (2019). Organizing the environmental governance of the rare-earth industry: China’s passive revolution. Organization Studies, 40, 1045-1071.

Cruz, L. B., and Boehe, D. M. (2010). How do leading retail MNCs leverage CSR globally? Insights from Brazil. Journal of Business Ethics, 91, 243–263.

Foucault, M. (2008). The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jessop, B. (2015). Crises, crisis-management and state restructuring: what future for the state? Policy & Politics, 43, pp. 475-492.

Maher, R., Valenzuela, F., and Böhm, S. (2019). The enduring state: An analysis of governance-making in three mining conflicts. Organization Studies, 40, 1169-1191.

Reinecke, J., and Ansari, S. (2016). Taming wicked problems: The role of framing in the construction of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Management Studies, 53, 299-329.

Spence, L. J., and Rinaldi, L. (2014). Governmentality in accounting and accountability: A case study of embedding sustainability in a supply chain. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 39, 433-452.

Sum, N-L. (2010). Wal-Martization and CSR-ization in developing countries. In: P. Utting & J. C. Marques (eds.): Corporate Social Responsibility and Regulatory Governance. London: Palgrave and Geneva: 50-76.

Vallentin, S. and Murillo, D. (2011). Governmentality and the politics of CSR. Organization, 19, 825-843.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Business and Management Studies or a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You are expected to:

  • Have a deep interest in CSR research;
  • Have a good understanding of the CSR-related theories including political CSR theory, institutional theory and stakeholder theory, or the relevant critical theories such as Foucault’s governmentality and Gramsci’s hegemony;
  • Have a good knowledge of qualitative research methods with good access to organisations in governance in one or two targeted developing countries;
  • And most important, have a good preparation to start this challenging but exciting research journey!

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Le Bo ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

When applying please quote project code: OSHR4671020