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Employee sensemaking of CSR: on micro-discourses of corporate social responsibility

Katharine E. Miller (Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 6 December 2022

Issue publication date: 17 April 2023




Recently, scholars are pushing for an internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) view through employee perspectives regarding CSR efforts, particularly in considering how organizations can act responsibly toward internal stakeholders (May, 2011). Thus, research has begun taking a “micro-turn” in analyzing CSR (Aguinis and Glavas, 2012), focused on individual analysis of such practices within organizations. The purpose of this study is to uncover the organizational sensemaking of CSR by an important yet less understood stakeholder group, employees.


This study takes a primarily qualitative, micro-approach via interviews (n = 42) to understanding the internal sensemaking of various organizations' CSR efforts from the perspective of employees. Organizational discourse analysis is utilized.


At the individual level, findings from over 40 one-on-one interviews highlighted how this stakeholder group rationalizes, perceives and identifies with their employers' socially responsible efforts. Findings uncover both macro- and micro-level understandings of CSR, as well as the reality of CSR within particular organizations from an operational standpoint.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides important theoretical and methodological implications, particularly in its explicitly interpretive and qualitative approach. Specifically, this work contributes to the micro-foundations and limited internal view of CSR by interviewing over 40 employees.

Practical implications

This study provides important pragmatic implications, particularly when considering how CSR is communicated to (internal) stakeholders. Additionally, CSR must be seen as strategic and embedded in core business practices, rather than a one-off campaign.

Social implications

On a societal level, there is an expectation that corporations take care of their employees in terms of emotional and physical well-being, equity, work–life balance, among others. This study suggests a move to more inward-facing CSR practices—specifically those benefiting internal members.


This work contributes to research on the micro-foundations and limited internal view of CSR and provides important pragmatic implications. Specifically, the use of interviews of employees in gaining access to an important stakeholder group is a significant contribution to CSR scholarship.



Miller, K.E. (2023), "Employee sensemaking of CSR: on micro-discourses of corporate social responsibility", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 469-488.



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