The business case for CSR refers to the idea that companies should adopt socially respon­sible practices out of self-interest. This article critically discusses the use of the business case argument in CSR promotion in Syria. I focus on the Global Compact’s contribution to “reputation-building”, which is the quintes­sential promise of the business case. I argue that the recipe for social legitimacy is not a “one size fits all” affair regardless of a country’s history, politics and culture. The article explores the socially constructed systems that affect Syrian businessmen’s reputation and approach to social responsibility.