Summary In Western Europe, corporate (social) responsibility (CR) has become a popular concept that no major company can afford to ignore. However, what about the major companies from the new Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) Member States? The present paper is one of the first attempts to analyse the understanding and relevance of the CR of some major CEE companies that are leaders in sustainability reporting. This analysis is conducted in direct comparison with a similar analysis on major Western European companies. Methodologically, the paper intertwines two qualitative strands of research: an analysis of 19 CR reports (12 from CEE and 7 from Western Europe) provides a general impression about the understanding of CR across different socio-political contexts. This report-based depiction is complemented by two surveys of 22 companies (11 from CEE and 11 from Western Europe). The surveys show the relevance that the companies attach to specific CR issues. Overall, the paper concludes that the understanding of CR is context-specific, but also that, in the case of major companies that are leading in CR reporting, the differences are not as stark as one might expect.