Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to understand whether firms evolve towards more comprehensive postures of CSR and what strategic factors drive the change. Design/methodology/approach - The approach is deductive-inductive research based on six critical case studies and supported by extensive review of related literature. The paper provides historical analysis of six firms leaders in their industry (Nike, Shell, General Electric, 3M, CEMEX and IBM) combining primary and secondary data. Findings - Firms evolve over time towards more complex CSR postures. This evolution is driven by some key strategic factors. The article sets out a three-stage framework connecting CSR evolution and the strategic change factors. Practical implications - The paper provides managers with a framework to promote strategic CSR change in their organizations. Originality/value - The paper is a joint research study on the evolution of CSR and strategic drivers of change.