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Mapping the environment for corporate social responsibility: Stakeholders, publics and the public sphere

Øyvind Ihlen (Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to seek to improve how companies map their environment in order to identify the social norms and values that exist in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR).


A theoretical discussion is accompanied by a short case study that includes analysis of ten sustainability reports published by the oil company Shell.


The mapping tools recommended in the literature of management and public relations have limitations. There are also weaknesses in the way that Shell, a supposed leader in the CSR movement, maps its environment. The public sphere concept is suggested as a fruitful supplement.

Research limitations/implications

More in‐depth case studies accompanied with qualitative interviews are needed to back up the conclusions put forward.

Practical implications

The norms, values and expectations regarding CSR are not fixed entities, and it is thus vital for organisations to engage in ongoing listening and dialogue to keep abreast of these changing factors. Companies have to attempt to be well informed and well read participants in civic society. Conceptualizing their environments as made up of stakeholders and a public sphere, can help in this endeavour.


The paper points to the limitation of current environmental mapping tools, and discusses how such mapping exercises can be improved.



Ihlen, Ø. (2008), "Mapping the environment for corporate social responsibility: Stakeholders, publics and the public sphere", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 135-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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