The hypocrisy‐sincerity continuum in corporate communication and decision making

Yves Fassin (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium)
Marc Buelens (Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, Gent, Belgium)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 3 May 2011



The disconnect between the corporate social responsibility (CSR) rhetoric and the practical reality experienced within companies calls for improved CSR evaluation systems that take into account the hypocrisy content of the firm's communication. The aim of this article is to contribute to the conceptual underpinning of a sincerity/hypocrisy index that positions an organization on a continuum from idealism to cynicism.


Starting with the analysis of the reasons for the dissonance between message and reality, the drivers of ethical corporate behavior, the intention of the actors and the intensity of effort and of corporate communication were analysed.


The analysis of the reasons for dissonance between message and reality sheds light on the role of communication in the perception of hypocrisy. An underlying model of a sincerity/hypocrisy index is proposed to position the firm on a continuum from idealism to hypocrisy in function of the degree of congruence or dissonance between communication and reality.

Practical implications

This concept of sincerity index could form a valuable basis for the development of new evaluation instruments for rating agencies, screening institutions and other evaluation bodies.


The instrument can help management to concentrate on the essence of CSR: the effective implementation of a corporate culture with attention for values and responsible business practices.



Fassin, Y. and Buelens, M. (2011), "The hypocrisy‐sincerity continuum in corporate communication and decision making", Management Decision, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 586-600.

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