Asian Communication Research - Vol. 17, No. 3

[ Original Research Article ]
Asian Communication Research - Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 84-114
Abbreviation: ACR
ISSN: 1738-2084 (Print)
Print publication date 30 Dec 2020
Received 12 Oct 2020 Revised 04 Dec 2020 Accepted 17 Dec 2020

Young Cambodian Consumers’ Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility : Applications of Collectivism, Saving Face, and Buddhism
Lida Meng* ; Soo-Yeon Kim**
*Assistant Manager, Marketing and CSR Team, KB Daehan Specialized Bank Plc., Phnom Penh, Cambodia (
**Associate Professor, Journalism and Strategic Communication, School of Media, Arts, and Science, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea

Correspondence to **


This study explored young Cambodian consumers’ awareness levels and perceptions of CSR, along with their cultural values. A survey of 294 young Cambodian consumers revealed that a majority of them were not aware of the concept of CSR; however, they showed a positive perception of CSR. An application of Visser’s (2008) CSR model for developing countries indicates that respondents placed the greatest importance on the philanthropic dimension, followed by the legal, ethical, and economic dimensions. The results suggest that collectivism is a dominant cultural value influencing perception of CSR in Cambodia. This study is meaningful in that it reveals young Cambodian consumers’ positive perceptions of CSR and provides direction for future studies and practices regarding Cambodian CSR.

KeywordsCambodia, corporate social responsibility, young consumers, collectivism, saving face, Buddhism

Despite its richness of culture and history, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, with a GDP of $4,000 (PPP) per capita in 2017 (Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], 2019). About half of Cambodian adults work in agriculture, while about one-third work in the service industry and one-fifth work in non-service industry jobs (CIA, 2019). Cambodia is still facing social, environmental and governance issues such as poverty and huge income gap (del Rosario, 2011). In response to those concerns, global companies have actively participated in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. In 2001, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) initiated ILO Garment Sector Project, later renamed Better Factories Cambodia, to not only monitor factories but to also “improve working conditions, comply with labor standards, and increase productivity through monitoring, factory level remediation, training and capacity building’ (ILO, n.d., para 1). Better Factories Cambodia attracted many global brands, such as “Adidas-Salomon, (and Reebok, which has now been acquired by Adidas), The Children’s Place, Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss, Nike, Sears, Walmart, and Disney” (Frost & Ho, 2006, p. 44) to participate in CSR programs in Cambodia.

Cambodia is one of the eleven countries—along with Brunei, Burma, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam—in Southeast Asia (Gin, 2004). The CSR activities of businesses in Southeast Asian countries are influenced by the cultural values of the region (del Rosario, 2011). Although empirical studies about Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia (e.g., Arli & Tjiptono, 2014), Malaysia (e.g., Abdul & Ibrahim, 2002; Ismail, Alias, & Rasdi, 2015), and Vietnam (e.g., Nguyen & Truong, 2016; Hieu, 2011) have explored publics’ perceptions of CSR practices in their countries, there is little empirical research about Cambodians’ perceptions of CSR practices. There are only a few descriptive reports about Cambodian CSR practices (e.g., Chhabara, 2008; Oxfam, Development and Partnership in Action [DPA] & Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency [SIDA], 2016; Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015), and CSR practices in Cambodia are known to be “slow and problematic” (Vu, 2018, p. 329). In Cambodia, CSR is a relatively new concept that is poorly understood by businesses and stakeholders (Chhabara, 2008; Küsel, 2008; Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015). Interestingly, the median age of the entire Cambodian population is 25.7 years old (CIA, 2019), and a great majority of Cambodians (97.9%) are Buddhists (CIA, 2019).

This study has two objectives. Its first objective is to explore young Cambodian consumers’ awareness and perceptions of CSR. Although a few studies (e.g., Chhabara, 2008; Küsel, 2008; Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015) have found that awareness of CSR remains low among businesses and related organizations in Cambodia, young Cambodian consumers’ awareness level of the concept of CSR and their perceptions of CSR have not yet been explored. The second objective is to investigate how Cambodian cultural values relate to young consumers. Since culture has been known to affect consumers’ evaluations of CSR (e.g., Kim & Choi, 2012; Maignan, 2001), it would be interesting to find how strong and unique Cambodian cultural characteristics (collectivism, saving face, and Buddhism) affect young Cambodian consumers’ perceptions of CSR.

Literature Review
CSR Pyramid Model in Developing Countries

Carroll (1991) developed a pyramid of CSR that consists of four dimensions: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic. The economic dimension refers to the business’s fundamental responsibility to make profits by providing products or services that meet consumers’ expectations. The legal dimension reflects its responsibility to obey laws and regulations. The ethical dimension refers to the its responsibility to meet stakeholders’ expectations of doing what is right, just and fair. The philanthropic component refers to the business’s responsibility to be a good corporate citizen by contributing to people and society. The four dimensions were built in a hierarchical structure, suggesting that businesses have to fulfill economic and legal responsibilities first, then proceed to higher obligations, such as ethical and philanthropic responsibilities.

Interestingly, Visser (2008) suggested his CSR pyramid for developing countries different from Carroll’s (1991) model. Both Carroll’s and Visser’s pyramids place economic responsibility, the most fundamental one, at the base. However, they place the other three responsibilities in different positions. In Visser’s pyramid, philanthropic responsibility is placed right after economic responsibility. Visser explained that CSR is most easily regarded as philanthropy or charity in developing countries that have “an ingrained culture of philanthropy” (p. 490). Legal responsibility is the second layer in Carroll’s model and the third one in Visser’s model. Visser emphasized that this does not mean that companies in developing countries neglect the law, but rather that “the legal infrastructure is poorly developed, and often lacks independence, resources, and administrative efficiency” (p. 491). Ethical responsibility is the third layer in Carroll’s model. Although ethics is the least emphasized responsibility in Visser’s model, he argued that “improved ethical responsibilities, incorporating good governance, should be assigned the highest CSR priority in developing countries” (Visser, 2008, p. 492). Visser (2008) stressed that his CSR pyramid model for developing countries is descriptive, rather than ideal.

Several empirical studies about CSR practices in developing countries (e.g., Azmat & Zutshi, 2012; Mandurah, Khatib, & Al-Sabaan, 2012; Moyeen & West, 2014) have supported Visser’s (2008) CSR pyramid model. Moyeen and West (2014) conducted in-depth interviews with 32 senior-level managers in Bangladesh, including CEOs, public relations managers, and communications managers of large companies, to explore their perceptions of CSR. They found that these managers’ emphasis on philanthropic responsibility was strong. Similarly, Azmat and Zutshi (2012) conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and found that a majority of them were involved in charitable donations, a part of philanthropic responsibility, following Visser’s model. However, Lindgreen, Swaen, and Campbell (2009) surveyed managers in Malawi and in Botswana and found that they stressed economic performance and ethical practices, but did not emphasize philanthropy, refuting Visser’s model. Further empirical research on different developing countries is needed for Visser’s model to have more explanatory power.

CSR Practices in Cambodia

Cambodian CSR has traditionally been based on philanthropic initiatives, where companies concentrate on making profits and donating some to charitable causes or society (Oxfam et al., 2016). In Cambodia, typical CSR activities involve scholarships, donations to charities, sponsorship of sports events, and support for community works by non‐governmental organizations (NGOs). For example, Khmer Brewery, in collaboration with the University of Cambodia, provided 50 scholarships to university students from across the country (Khmer Brewery, 2012). While a few large multinational companies engage in CSR activities, most local businesses do not seem to have a clear understanding of what CSR means (Chhabara, 2008) and believe that it should only be practiced by larger companies (Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015). Not only are Cambodian businesses not fully aware of the importance of strategic CSR, but a majority of Cambodian publics also share this lack of awareness (Chhabara, 2008). The presence of numerous NGOs that are active in contributing to society could be a possible reason why CSR seems to be ignored by firms in this region (Küsel, 2008). There seem to be few businesses interested in doing CSR‐type projects in Cambodia.

Although there are various CSR‐related laws in Mekong countries, including Cambodia, implementation remains weak (del Rosario, 2011). Chhabara (2008) noted that the lack of a robust regulatory framework plays a negative role in encouraging CSR in Cambodia. Furthermore, he suggested that in view of the low awareness of CSR in Cambodia, building capacities at all levels should be supported by an enabling regulatory and business environment. A few studies (Chhabara, 2008; Küsel, 2008; Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015) have examined Cambodian CSR platforms and concluded that awareness of CSR remains low among business and related organizations in Cambodia. However, young Cambodian consumers’ awareness level of the concept of CSR and their perceptions of CSR were not explored. With that in mind, the following three research questions were proposed to explore young Cambodian consumers’ awareness and perceptions of CSR, as well as how their purchase intention is influenced by a company’s CSR efforts.

RQ 1: To what extent are young Cambodian consumers aware of CSR? How do young Cambodian consumers perceive CSR?
RQ 2: To what extent do young Cambodian consumers show purchase intention toward a corporations’ products when a corporation executes CSR activities?

Cambodian Cultural Values and Publics’ Perceptions of CSR Practices
Collectivism and Publics’ Perceptions of CSR in Cambodia

Numerous empirical studies have investigated how Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions relate to publics’ perceptions and support of CSR in specific social contexts and have confirmed the effect of national culture and geographic environment on CSR practices (Bae & Kim, 2013; Ho, Wang, & Vitell, 2012; Kim & Kim, 2010). Bae and Kim (2013) applied cultural values to test their impact on perceived importance of CSR activities among South Korean publics and found that collectivism and long‐term orientation positively affected Carroll’s four CSR dimensions. They also found that the perceived importance of CSR could influence consumers’ purchase intention to buy products of companies that are fulfilling social responsibilities. Using global Corporate Social Performance (CSP) data, Ho et al. (2012) concluded that higher levels of collectivism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance can lead to a higher CSP.

Although Cambodia is not still rated on Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions, there is a rich diversity of social and cultural values in Cambodia. The concept of doing no harm to society suggests Cambodia as a collectivist society. A Cambodian proverb states, “In a basket of fish, if one stinks, they all stink.” This suggests that the reputation of an entire family or group can easily be damaged through the actions of an individual member (Gourley, 2009). This proverb also illustrates how Cambodian people are concerned about the reputation of their group because the reputation of the whole group will be damaged if any member of the group has lost his or her good reputation. People living in a collectivist environment are expected to show unquestioning loyalty to their own group, which offers them lifelong protection and dependence (Hofstede, 1980). Collectivist cultures are family‐ and group‐oriented (Gourley, 2009), and in such cultures, the actions of an individual member can easily build up or damage the reputation of the family as a whole (Gourley, 2009).

Saving Face and Public’s Perceptions of CSR in Cambodia

In a hierarchical society like Cambodia, honor and saving face are important values, as the degree to which an individual is accorded honor and respect can have a direct and significant impact on their position in the social hierarchy (Gourley, 2009). In Cambodia, acts that will cause individuals to lose face or cause someone else to lose face should be avoided (Berkvens, 2009). This explains why Cambodian employees tend not to speak their minds at their workplaces and why students do not ask many questions in school (Berkvens, 2009). Cambodians tend to avoid making mistakes and losing face in order to protect their reputation and relationship with patrons (Gourley, 2009).

Although few efforts have been made to explore the relationship between saving face and consumers’ perceptions of CSR practices, Kim and Kim (2013) found that the Korean value of Chemyon can positively impact public relations practitioners’ CSR initiatives in Korea. Chemyon is the Korean term for saving face, and Lim and Choi (1996) note that “the greater part of che‐myon is given by society, and individuals protect it by meeting the expectations of the society” (p. 124). A Cambodian proverb states, “Don’t take inside fire outside, nor bring outside fire in.” This saying advises Cambodian people not to share stories or problems about their families with others, and also not to bring outside problems home; both of these actions will cause a family to lose face and diminish their happiness. In this sense, the appropriateness of CSR in Cambodian culture can be questionable in terms of saving face, since CSR can be viewed as accepting help from people outside of one’s own family members. This current study is different from Kim and Kim’s (2013) study, as this one explored how consumers’ perceptions of saving face is related to their perceptions of CSR, while their study explored how public relations practitioners’ perceptions of saving face are related to their perceptions of CSR.

Buddhism and Public’s Perceptions of CSR in Cambodia

In Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism, the national religion (Kouy, 2013), has been dominant since the 13th century (Sassoon, 2018) and is practiced by 97.9 percent of the population (CIA, 2019). Buddhism influences the Cambodian people’s thoughts and way of life. Buddhists believe that a person is continually reborn and that the rank of each individual in a hierarchy reflects the consequences of his or her actions in a previous life; this is referred to as karma, which means deed or action (O’Leary, 2006). In Buddhist belief, there is good karma and bad karma. Khmer Buddhists believe that good karma will lead to good results in life. This belief is reflected in the Khmer saying, “If you do good deed, you will get good thing; if you do evil deed, you will get evil thing.” Cambodian Buddhists try to perform good acts in order to earn merit. This may include giving money, goods, and labor to other individuals or the general society, while avoiding evil or immoral acts. Because of this belief, Buddhists try to do no harm to society.

With a majority of Buddhists in Cambodia, the belief that people should do good and no harm to other people and society is prevalent throughout the country. This primary teaching of Buddhism could provide a solid foundation for supporting CSR values in Cambodia (del Rosario, 2011). A few studies have explored the possible linkage between Buddhism and CSR (e.g., Du, Jian, Zeng, & Du, 2014; Vu, 2018). Vu (2018) argued for a Buddhist skillful means approach to CSR, which emphasizes “flexibility and wisdom in adopting non‐extreme, sustainable, skillful, mindful, compassionate and egoless approaches” (p. 329) to be utilized in various local settings. Before the term CSR was coined, corporations in this region were already practicing philanthropic initiatives, which are manifestations of the cultures and religions of countries in Southeast Asia (del Rosario, 2011).

Culture has been known to affect various stakeholders’ evaluations of CSR, including consumers (e.g., Kim & Choi, 2012; Maignan, 2001) and marketers (e.g., Vitell, Paolillo, & Thomas, 2003). Research in eight Southeast Asian countries has found that Cambodian CSR is highly influenced by Buddhism, a sense of collectivism, and the concept of saving face (del Rosario, 2011). Thus, the current study used collectivism, saving face, and Buddhism to investigate how Cambodian cultural values relate to young consumers’ perceptions of CSR. The following research questions addressed this.

RQ 3: What are the relationships between Cambodian cultural values and young consumers’ perceptions of CSR?
RQ 4: What are the relationships between Cambodian cultural values and young consumers’ purchase intention of products from a corporation implementing CSR?

Sample and Data Collection

In 2014, the median age of Cambodia’s population was 25.7 years old, and the mean age of Cambodian mothers at their first birth was 22.9 years old (CIA, 2019). In 2015, the adult literacy rate in Cambodia was 80.5% (86.5% for men and 75% for women) (CIA, 2019). For this study, an offline survey was used to collect data in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, during August 2018. Since this study’s goal was to explore young consumers’ perception of CSR, convenience and snowball sampling was used to enlist the participation of undergraduate students from several large universities in Cambodia. A total of 303 questionnaires were distributed by the researcher to the sample of the study. The analysis was based on 294 complete survey questionnaires.


The survey instrument was a self‐administered questionnaire containing primarily closed‐ended questions. It included 43 items to measure Cambodian cultural values, awareness of CSR, perceptions of CSR, purchase intention, and sociodemographic items. For those measures, the response choices mostly consisted of modified 7‐point Likert scales ranging from 1 (‘‘strongly disagree’’) to 7 (‘‘strongly agree’’). The survey also briefly explained the meaning of CSR after checking respondents’ awareness of the concept of CSR.

All of the items were translated from English into the Khmer language by the researcher with the assistance of a Khmer adult who graduated from the English Literature department at the national university in Cambodia. A pretest was conducted with five Cambodians in their 20s who had earned at least a bachelor’s degree in order to make sure that all questions were translated appropriately. Adjustments were made when translations were found to be incorrect or difficult to understand.

Cultural Values

Four scale items for measuring collectivism were derived from Wu, Taylor and Chen (2001), who adopted the scales from Hofstede (1984) and Vasquez and Taylor (1999). Nine scales about saving face were adopted from Li and Su (2007). Religious influences were measured by the statement, “Do you have a religion? If so, what is your religion?” If the respondent chose any religion provided as a response choice (except no religion), he or she was directed to the next question, “To what degree do you think you are a religious person?” Response choices consisted of a 7‐point Likert scale ranging from 1 (“religion has nothing to do with my life”) to 7 (“religion is an important standard of living”).

Awareness and Perceptions of CSR

Awareness of CSR was measured by the question, “Have you ever heard of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ or ‘CSR’?” A brief definition of CSR with examples was given after this question on the questionnaire like the following:

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis” (Commission of the European Communities, 2001). In short, CSR is any good activities that a company does for a society. In recent years, many large corporations, especially multinational ones, are actively doing this type of social activity (e.g., donating money, product or services to social causes, developing recycling products, using natural ingredients, etc.). For example, in 2017, Starbucks Cambodia launched a CSR campaign called the “Give Good” Charity Campaign, with an aim of promoting the love of reading among young Cambodian children. During the campaign period, Starbucks employees volunteered to donate storybooks to local primary schools in Kampong Speu and Kampong Chnag province and to spend time reading books with students.

The scales for measuring consumers’ perceptions of CSR were adopted from Maignan (2001) which examined consumers’ evaluations of four dimensions defined by Carroll (1979). The scales consisted of 16 items.

Purchase Intention

The survey included five items to measure consumers’ purchase intention behavior. These items were adopted from Maignan (2001), who developed the scales to examine consumers’ support of socially responsible businesses.

Data Analysis

The PSAW Statistics 18 software program was used to analyze data. A factor analysis and hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted to answer the research questions.

Description of Respondents

Of the 294 respondents, 162 (55.1%) were female and 132 (44.9%) were male. Respondents’ ages ranged from 17 to 32, and the mean age of respondents was 21.45 (SD = 2.34). Regarding educational levels, 269 respondents (91.5%) were undergraduate students, 11 (3.7%) were master’s students, ten (3.4%) were doctoral students, and four (1.4%) were pursuing other degrees, such as an associate degree. One hundred fifty‐seven respondents (53.4%) were majoring in a science field, 40 (13.6%) in engineering, 39 (13.3%) in the social sciences and humanities, and 14 (4.8%) in a foreign language. Other major fields, such as education, medical, architecture, nursing, law, business, economics and banking, and public administration, etc. were chosen by 44 respondents (15.0%). Regarding religion, 267 participants (91.4%) identified as Buddhists, 12 (4.1%) as Christians, one (0.3%) as Catholic, one (0.3%) as Muslim, and nine (3.1%) as having no religion.

Construction of Measures

A reliability test was conducted to examine internal consistency among scale items. Cronbach’s alpha for various scales were as follows: 0.67 for collectivism, 0.66 for saving face, 0.63 for CSR economic dimension, 0.73 for CSR legal dimension, 0.60 for CSR ethical dimension, 0.77 for CSR philanthropic dimension, 0.83 for overall CSR mean, and 0.68 for purchase intention. Scales having a Cronbach’s alpha equal to 0.70 or higher are considered to have adequate internal reliability (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994), although a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.60 is still acceptable for an exploratory study (Hair, Anderson, Tatham & Black, 1998).

Tests of Research Questions

Answering RQ1, a majority of respondents (n = 236, 84.0%) did not know the meaning of CSR, while only 45 respondents (16.0%) were aware of it. This indicates a low awareness level of the concept of CSR in young Cambodian consumers. A principal components factor analysis using varimax rotation was also employed to answer RQ1. A four‐component accounted for 58.7% of the total variance. The first factor, philanthropic dimension, included five items (M=5.68, SD=0.80) and accounted for 19.5%. Five items included all four philanthropic dimensions one ethical dimension from Carroll’s (1979). One ethical item was “I believe that businesses should be committed to well‐defined ethics principles.” The second factor, legal dimension, accounted for 16.9%. It included five items (M=5.70, SD=0.81) including all four legal dimensions and one economic dimension from Carroll’s (1979). One economic dimension was “I believe that businesses always improve economic performance.” The third factor, ethical dimension, included three ethical items (M=4.98, SD=1.07) from Carroll’s (1979) and accounted for 11.2%. The last factor including economic dimensions from Carroll’s (1979) was economic dimension (M=5.45, SD=0.93) and accounted for 11.1%.

Table 1  Results of Descriptive and Factor Analysis With Varimax Rotation of CSR Dimensions

Factors M SD 1 2 3 4
Factor 1 (Philanthropic dimension) 5.68 0.80
I believe that businesses must allocate some of their resources to philanthropic activities. 5.85 1.04 .776
I believe that businesses participate in the management of public affairs. 5.45 1.04 .759
I believe that businesses help solve social problems. 5.82 1.04 .752
I believe that businesses play a role in our society that goes beyond the mere generation of profits. 5.50 1.34 .698
I believe that businesses should be committed to well-defined ethics principles. 5.79 0.94 .520
Factor 2 (Legal dimension) 5.70 0.81
I believe that businesses ensure that their employees act within the standards defined by the law. 5.73 1.03 .792
I believe that businesses refrain from putting aside their contractual obligations. 5.54 1.16 .746
I believe that businesses refrain from bending the law even if this helps improve performance. 5.76 1.37 .606
I believe that businesses always improve economic performance. 5.81 0.99 .545
I believe that businesses always submit to the principles defined by the regulatory system. 5.66 1.04 .497
Factor 3 (Ethical dimension) 4.98 1.07
I believe that businesses ensure that the respect of ethical principles has priority over economic performance. 5.09 1.18 .778
I believe that businesses permit ethical concerns to negatively affect economic performance. 4.68 1.63 .696
I believe that businesses avoid compromising ethical standards in order to achieve corporate goals. 5.17 1.55 .584
Factor 4 (Economic dimension) 5.45 0.93
I believe that businesses maximize profits. 4.70 1.43 .786
I believe that businesses control their production costs strictly. 5.61 1.06 .739
I believe that businesses plan for their long term success. 6.04 1.12 .646
Eigenvalues 3.1 2.7 1.8 1.8
Variance 19.5% 16.9% 11.2% 11.1%

RQ2 asked whether Cambodian consumers show purchase intention toward products of corporations implementing CSR programs. Respondents showed moderate purchase intention (M = 5.30, SD = 0.89). (ACR readers all know that they are descriptive statistics.)

Table 2  Means and Standard Deviations for Purchase Intention

Item M SD
If the price and quality of two products are the same, I would buy from the firm that has a socially responsible reputation. 5.86 1.23
I avoid buying products from companies that have engaged in immoral actions. 5.56 1.40
I would pay more to buy the products of a company that shows caring for the well-being of our society. 5.48 1.26
I consider the ethical reputation of businesses when I shop. 4.86 1.38
I would pay more to buy products from a socially responsible company. 4.73 1.41
Total 5.30 .89

Before conducting the regression analysis, the correlation coefficients between demographic variables (age and gender), cultural values, CSR dimensions, and purchase intention mean were checked. The mean age of respondents was 21.45 (SD = 2.34). Collectivism (M = 5.68, SD = 0.88) showed the highest scores, while Buddhism (M = 4.50, SD = 1.47) and saving face (M = 3.23, SD = 0.79) showed the lowest scores. Respondents showed moderate purchase intention (M = 5.30, SD = 0.89).

There was a significant negative correlation between gender and age, which indicates that the younger the respondent was, the more likely the respondent was to be female. Age was correlated with education, CSR economic dimension, ethical dimension, and overall CSR mean. Collectivism was correlated positively with all CSR dimensions except for ethical dimension. Saving face was correlated positively with CSR philanthropic dimension. Buddhism was not correlated with any CSR dimensions. With respect to CSR perceptions, positive correlations were found between four CSR dimensions and overall CSR mean. Purchase intention correlated positively with collectivism and all CSR dimensions.

Table 3  Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficients for Cultural Values, CSR Dimensions, and Purchase Intention

Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
1. Gender - -.198** -.148* -.039 -.087 .109 -.052 .020 -.015 -.052 -.047 -.054
2. Age - .294*** .091 .040 -.081 .127* .103 .190** .071 .171** .067
3. Education - .009 -.049 -.052 -.019 .029 .040 -.027 .008 .031
4. Collectivism - -.060 .042 .214*** .267*** .053 .214** .250*** .230***
5. Saving face - .037 -.123 -.090 -.063 -.123 -.035 .070
6. Buddhism - .003 -.019 -.028 .003 -.028 .046
7. Economic dimension - .577*** .376*** .283*** .728*** .333***
8. Legal dimension - .447*** .577*** .800*** .343***
9. Ethical dimension - .376*** .751*** .237***
10. Philanthropic dimension - .673*** .241***
11. Overall CSR mean - .384***
12. Purchase intention -
Note. N = 252. Gender was coded as 0 (male) and 1 (female), education as 0 (low education, which includes bachelor’s and associate degree) and 1 (high education, which includes graduate degrees). *p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.

RQ3 addressed the relationship between cultural values and young consumers’ perceptions of CSR. Since one of the cultural values was Buddhism, 252 Buddhists’ responses (85.7%) that revealed respondents’ religious levels were included in the analysis. Before conducting a linear regression analysis to answer this question, descriptive analysis was used to measure each cultural value dimension.

Several hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to answer RQ3 and RQ4. Demographic variables including gender, age, and education were entered into the first block and mean values of cultural values (collectivism, saving face, and Buddhism) were entered into the second block. Regarding RQ3, the first regression model of economic dimension was significant [F(6, 241) = 4.13, p<.01]. Collectivism (β = .25, p<.001) and saving face (β = .19, p<.01) showed a significant relationship with the economic dimension. The regression model of legal dimension was significant [F(6, 241) = 3.66, p<.01], and collectivism (β = .23, p<.001) had a significant relationship with the legal dimension. The regression model of ethical dimension was not significant [F(6, 241) = 2.70, p>.05]. In the first block regression model, age (β = .09, p<.01) was significant and the R2 change was significant [F change (3, 244) = 3.06, p<.05]. In the second block regression model, no cultural variables had significant relationships with the ethical dimension. The regression model of philanthropic dimension was significant [F(6, 241) = 3.21, p<.01] and collectivism (β = .17, p<.01) had a significant relationship with the philanthropic dimension. The last regression model of overall CSR mean was significant [F(6, 241) = 3.69, p<.01]. In the first block regression model, age (β = .04, p<.05) had a significant relationship with overall CSR mean and the R2 change was significant [F change (1, 246) = 7.40, p<.01]. In the second block model, collectivism (β = .17, p<.001) had a significant relationship with overall CSR mean.

RQ4 asked whether cultural values are associated with purchase intention. A hierarchical linear regression model of purchase intention was significant [F(6, 241) = 2.75, p<.05] and collectivism had a significant relationship with purchase intention (β = .22, p<.001) (see Table 4).

Table 4  Hierarchical Regression on CSR Perceptions and Purchase Intention

Predictors Economic dimension Legal dimension Ethical dimension Philanthropic dimension Overall CSR mean Purchase intention
β (SE) β (SE) β (SE) β (SE) β (SE) β (SE)
Block 1 Gender
Education -.11(.26) .07(.23) .01(.30) -.02(.22) -.01(.18) .22(.25)
R2 .01 .01 .03* .01 .03 .01
Block 2 Collectivism .25(.06) *** .23(.05) *** .03(.07) .17(.05) ** .17(.04)*** .22(.06) ***
Saving face .19(.07) ** -.07(.06) -.09(.08) -.11(.06) -.02(.05) .08(.07)
Buddhism -.02(.03) .01(.03)* -.01(.04) .01(.03) -.01(.02) .03(.03)
R2 change .08 .07 .01 .06 .05 .05
R2 .09*** .08*** .04 .07** .08** .06**
Note. N = 252. Gender was coded as 0 (male) and 1 (female), education as 0 (low education, which includes bachelor’s and associate degree) and 1 (high education, which includes graduate degrees). *p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.

Conclusions and Discussion

This study found that a majority of young Cambodians (84.0%) were not aware of the meaning of CSR, reflecting that CSR is a relatively new concept and poorly understood by business stakeholders in Cambodia (CSR Platform Cambodia, 2016; Küsel, 2008; Parsons & Lawreniuk, 2015). This result is similar to Arli and Lasmono’s (2010) finding of Indonesian consumers’ low awareness levels of CSR, and different from Hieu’s (2011) conclusion about Vietnamese consumers’ high awareness level of CSR. This clearly demonstrates that public awareness levels of CSR among developing countries of Southeast Asia region are not all the same.

Interestingly, although most of the young Cambodian consumers did not know the meaning of CSR, they expressed a positive perception of CSR after they were informed of its meaning. This is contradictory to Vietnamese consumers’ questionable attitudes towards CSR (Hieu, 2011) and American consumers’ CSR skepticism, which reflects “publics’ inclination to question, disbelieve, and distrust an organization’s CSR motives, communication and activity, and informativeness” (Rim & Kim, 2016, p. 262). In addition, young Cambodian consumers not only expressed a positive perception of CSR, but also showed increased purchase intention toward products from corporations implementing CSR activities. Compared to Indonesian consumers’ low support for CSR because of their struggle to buy affordable products (Arli & Lasmono, 2010), Cambodian consumers’ moderate support for CSR is interesting. Like Indonesian consumers, Cambodian consumers also earn small amounts of money and struggle to afford their daily needs; however, the results suggest the possibility that young Cambodian consumers’ optimistic perceptions of CSR can empower a bright future for CSR activities in Cambodia.

Young Cambodian consumers emphasized the philanthropic dimension most, followed by the legal, ethical, and economic dimensions. This result partially supported Visser’s (2008) CSR pyramid for developing countries rather than Carroll’s (1991) classic CSR pyramid. Since economic responsibility was the least important dimension, this study’s finding about the Cambodian CSR pyramid model was not exactly the same as Visser’s (2008). It differs from consumers’ emphasis on economic responsibility in Indonesia, a country—like Cambodia—where consumers have low awareness regarding the meaning of CSR (Arli & Lasmono, 2010). This aspect of young Cambodian consumers’ perceptions of CSR needs further study.

One possible reason why Cambodian consumers consider philanthropy as the most important responsibility of business is the existence of many social problems in their country. In a society like Cambodia, where citizens often face social problems such as poverty and hunger (del Rasario Sr, 2011), many people need material donations, which is a type of philanthropic activity. Most Cambodian people seem to regard CSR as a philanthropic or charitable program, reflecting Visser’s (2008) explanation of CSR in developing countries. Finally, it can also be interpreted that since Cambodian consumers perceive CSR as a form of philanthropy or charity, they do not regard economic responsibility as a type of CSR, but rather as a business activity that is not related to CSR.

Regarding Cambodian cultural values, collectivism showed the highest mean score (M = 5.68), indicating a high collectivistic society in Cambodia, as expected. However, although a majority of respondents (91.4%) indicated that they are Buddhists, their religiosity was not strong (M = 4.50). Saving face (M = 3.23) was also found to be low compared to previous studies’ findings of high face‐concerning in Cambodia (e.g., Berkvens, 2009; Gourley, 2009). A possible reason for this neutral religiosity and low saving face may be that the sample of this study consisted of only young adults (M = 21.45, SD=2.34). A recent survey of people in 46 countries regarding age gaps in importance of religion showed that adults under age 40 are less likely than older people to perceive religion as an important aspect of life (Kramer & Fahmy, 2018). Czymoniewicz‐Klippel (2017) explained the transformed situation of childhood in contemporary Cambodia in the following way: “In contemporary Cambodia, however, adult power over and control of children is progressively eroding as young Cambodians take advantage of their greater independence to construct life‐worlds” (p. 333). This finding suggests that the younger Cambodian generations would likely have different cultural characteristics than the older generations, as well as weaker religiosity and saving‐face traditions.

This study found that Buddhism did not have a significant relationship with any CSR dimensions or with purchase intention. This unexpected result does not support del Rosario’s (2011) claim that Buddhism can play a fundamental role in supporting CSR in Mekong countries such as Cambodia. The religiosity level of the respondent (M = 4.50) indicated that young Cambodians do not have strong beliefs in Buddhism, which may explain there being no significant relationship between Buddhism and any CSR dimensions or purchase intention. This may also explain the young Cambodian generation’s transformed perceptions of traditions, religion, and corporate attitudes as compared to those of previous generations, and it should be further explored. It should be noted that the scale this study used to measure Buddhism had only one item; consequently, participants’ religiosity was not explored in much depth. Future studies should ask respondents more questions about their Buddhist beliefs rather than simply having them select their level of religiosity.

Among cultural values, collectivism showed a significant positive relationship with almost all of the CSR dimensions, as well as purchase intention. This is consistent with the finding of other empirical studies (e.g., Bae & Kim, 2013; Ho et al., 2012; Kim & Kim, 2010) about the significant positive relationship of collectivism and perceptions of CSR. Yet, saving face only had a significant positive relationship with the economic CSR dimension. That is, the more emphasis respondents placed on saving face, the more importance they placed on economic responsibility. Visser (2008) emphasized economic responsibility the most in his CSR model of developing countries because developing countries suffer from societal problems, such as high unemployment and low investment from foreign funds. Young Cambodian consumers’ saving face and emphasis on the fundamental economic role of corporations revealed their urgent hope of establishing a basic corporate environment to provide safe products and create jobs to save their face.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that age had a significant relationship with ethical dimension while any cultural variables did not have significant relationships. However, considering that most respondents in this study are young (respondents’ ages ranged from 17 to 32, and the mean age of respondents was 21.45), it would be hard to interpret that the older respondent was, the more likely the respondent emphasizes the ethical dimension of CSR.

This study explored Cambodian contexts related to CSR practices and contributed to the diversification of Asian contexts by answering Kim, Kim, and Choi’s (2016) call for Asian‐based studies beyond China and Korea. This study is meaningful in that it revealed young Cambodian consumers’ positive expectations of CSR practices, even though they did not know the meaning of it. They placed an emphasis on the legal and philanthropic dimensions of CSR, confirming that these two dimensions are the most urgent and needed corporate responsibilities for young consumers in Cambodia. Although collectivism was found to be a significant cultural value in supporting CSR practices, the study also showed possible cultural change for young generations in Cambodia. Similar changes in cultural characteristics are also evident in the U.S. and South Korea (Chung, 2016). Hopefully, this study may be the cornerstone to further investigations into CSR practices in Cambodia.

Limitation and Future Research

There are several limitations to this study. First, since this study used a university student sample as its respondents, it is limited in terms of generalizability. Future studies should consider conducting research with young consumers who are not university students or with older consumers to ensure greater generalizability. Second, there were more students majoring in science than those in other majors (e.g., social sciences, humanities, engineering) in the sample of this study. However, it should be noted that about 60 percent of students in Cambodia major in social science, business, and law, while less than 10 percent of students major in science (Packard & Nguyen, 2014). Thus, there are sample biases in terms of respondents’ majors, and this may affect their perceptions of CSR in this study. Future studies should make efforts to find unbiased student samples in terms of their majors to reflect young Cambodian consumers’ perceptions of CSR. Third, the study explored consumers’ perceptions of and intentions related to CSR practices in Cambodia. Future studies could focus on internal publics, such as employees or managers in corporations, in order to gain a deeper understanding of CSR situations in Cambodia. Fourth, this study used only one scale item to measure religiosity of Buddhist respondents. Future studies should use more diverse scale items to measure Buddhist values. Last, according to this study’s findings, as well as findings of previous studies about CSR in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia (e.g., Arli & Lasmono, 2010) and Vietnam (e.g., Hieu, 2011), there are different levels of CSR perceptions in these countries. Therefore, it would be interesting to conduct a more in‐depth cross‐cultural study examining publics’ perceptions of CSR in Southeast Asian countries to reveal why their perception levels are different.

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