CSR communication in small and medium‐sized enterprises

Anne Ellerup Nielsen (ABS Centre for Corporate Communication, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Christa Thomsen (ABS Centre for Corporate Communication, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine how corporate social responsibility (CSR) appears and is communicated in small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs).


The paper is based on theory and research on CSR communication in general and in SMEs and a qualitative case study of the attitudes and beliefs of Danish SME managers regarding CSR and CSR communication.


The case study demonstrates that CSR is primarily considered to be an ethical and moral issue which is isolated from strategic communication including public relations and reputation management. Rather than being a strategic instrument, CSR seems to be rooted in practice and regulated by the personal values and beliefs of managers. It is argued that in principle, SMEs like the ones in the case study which are based on employee commitment and the use of indirect word‐of‐mouth communication with internal and local stakeholders have a fruitful platform for adopting strategic CSR communication. The problem is how they should communicate CSR to their external stakeholders.

Practical implications

This paper provides insights into the social and societal commitment of SMEs and ways in which SMEs can respond to the challenges of communicating CSR more explicitly to external stakeholders.


Attention is paid to the rather complicated balance between CSR communication as window‐dressing and CSR communication as a strategic instrument.



Ellerup Nielsen, A. and Thomsen, C. (2009), "CSR communication in small and medium‐sized enterprises", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 176-189. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563280910953852

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