Perspectives differ on whether multinationals (MNEs) should develop centrally coordinated, ‘global’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies, or whether they should stimulate decentralized, ‘local’ CSR strategies. A global strategy might involve an efficient transmission of (proactive) CSR practices throughout the organization worldwide, but may also lack ownership and legitimacy at the local level. While much more responsive, a local strategy could be fragmented. Moreover, when the local context is a country with lower CSR standards, there is a risk that decentralization will lead subsidiaries to target those lower standards rather than the higher standards expected in their home countries. This paper considers this issue by exploring CSR practices and subsidiary autonomy among Mexican subsidiaries of seven European MNEs in the automotive industry. We explore whether these subsidiaries adopt ‘European’ CSR practices, and whether adoption is more likely under relatively centralized or decentralized parent-subsidiary relationships. Interestingly, the results presented here suggest that in a ‘lower CSR context’ such as Mexico, decentralized decision-making may in fact be associated with higher local CSR performance. The paper also discusses the managerial, policy and research implications of these findings.