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Reporting CSR – what and how to say it?

Anne Ellerup Nielsen (Aarhus School of Business, Denmark)
Christa Thomsen (Aarhus School of Business, Denmark)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 6 February 2007




This paper seeks to analyse and discuss what organizations say and how they say it when reporting Corporate Social Responsibility. It raises the question whether organizations report consistently on CSR in terms of genres, media, rhetorical strategies, etc.


The analysis takes critical discourse analysis of selected corporations' CSR reporting, on the one hand, and theories and research on CSR and stakeholder relations, on the other hand, as its starting‐point. A model of analysis is proposed which presents discourse as a result of four kinds of challenges facing corporations today. The model serves to establish an ideal typology of CSR concepts and discourses and to analyse these discourses from a modern organizational and corporate communication perspective.


The analysis shows that annual reports are very dissimilar with respect to topics on the one hand and dimensions and discourses expressed in perspectives, stakeholder priorities, contextual information and ambition levels, on the other hand. The paper argues that corporations seem to be wrapped in divergent configurations of interest stemming from different institutional affiliations, such as government, regional institutions and NGOs.


The contribution of the paper is to highlight the value of the discourse and the discourse types adopted in the reporting material. By adopting consistent discourse types which interact according to a well‐defined pattern or order it is possible to communicate a strong social commitment, on the one hand, and take into consideration the expectations of the shareholders and of the other stakeholders, on the other hand.



Ellerup Nielsen, A. and Thomsen, C. (2007), "Reporting CSR – what and how to say it?", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 25-40.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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