Art, business and corporate social responsibility. Insights from add art Hamburg 2019

Being successful over the long run is a business responsibility that entails implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR): one of the ways of understanding and engaging with the society in which an organization operates is working with the arts. Hence, this master thesis aims to investigate if and, if so, how managers relate their feelings towards artistic interventions into business: whether they connect them to the indirect economic performance of their organizations (art is just an utilitarian investment to get indirect business benefits such as visibility) and/or to the social/cultural role of their organizations for the communities of reference (art is also able to generate a CSR perspective).
The opportunity to examine the research questions of the study was offered by add art Hamburg 2019 – Hamburgs Wirtschaft öffnet Türen für Kunst (, the 7th edition of a unique worldwide event. On a weekend (21 – 24 November 2019), 17 diverse organizations in Hamburg opened their rooms to the public and showed their artistic interventions: corporate art collections or temporary art exhibitions (by young artists). Every year (and also in 2019) approximately 1,700 visitors get the opportunity to view art in companies and institutions.
The empirical study of this qualitative research project was based on open-ended semi-structured interviews. The sample comprised 12 of the 17 participating organizations: the majority of it encompassed small-to-medium organizations, founded after 2000, hosting temporary art exhibits by young artists and in the professional services industry. One person in each of these businesses was interviewed: most of the respondents were in top management positions. In addition, the study benefitted greatly from the insights shared by the coordinator of add art Hamburg, Hubertus von Barby.
The research built on that conducted by Berthoin Antal and Nussbaum Bitran on add art Hamburg 2015, validating it and adding some points according to its angle of analysis.
The study confirmed that having art into business can generally, positively but subliminally, affect the identity and learning process of managers and, indirectly, the organizations’ economic development (in terms of visibility, reputation/competitive advantage, corporate identity, corporate culture promotion, enhancement of work environment and better productivity, client and employee engagement).
Nevertheless, all the managers expressed their attention towards the stakeholders (who are at the centre of every CSR action) through diverse approaches. Welcoming art into business was seen as a way to care about employees’ well-being and mindset, support artists’ community, get in contact with clients through non business-related topics, relate with citizens and the local community. All these CSR-related impacts of art into business perceived by managers were subliminal/not measurable. Moreover, most managers affirmed that their organizations do not have a formal CSR report and do not include their involvement in add art Hamburg in other reports. These results have illustrated that the participation in add art is in the stream of the CSR activities that have been implemented in Germany during the past decades, although it is not a recognized nor a reported nor a systematically addressed CSR practice. The lack of awareness towards CSR confirmed that organizations do not participate in add art because of CSR. However, organizations, especially small and local ones (which might not do less CSR efforts than big corporations), can become aware of CSR because of their engagement with culture. Indeed, the sample analysed documented that every type of company or institution can find a unique connection with the art. Thus, the author deems that focusing only on areas such as environment and diversity, excluding culture as an enabler of CSR strategies, is short-sighted. A proactive approach to respond to this situation is Global Responsibility (GR), that the author suggests framing into different perspectives (economic, environmental, social, cultural, technological, etc.). The recognition of corporate cultural responsibility (CCR) as an independent stream of responsibility would be in line, implement, and add value to the recent (2019) introduction of culture into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Laura Melani –  Cultural Economics and Management – 2020, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore