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Digital Reflections of Pharmaceutical Companies and their CSR Communication Strategies

Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age

ISBN: 978-1-78441-582-2, eISBN: 978-1-78441-581-5

Publication date: 28 March 2015



Taking into consideration that the number of reports about pharmaceutical lobbying activities is increasing (Baleta, 2014; Boseley, 2014) and that the cost of drugs has a direct and powerful impact on both public and private healthcare, there is a need to require pharmaceutical companies to report their activity as well as reflect their considerations about the ethical implications of their work. To answer that need, this chapter explores how pharmaceutical companies communicate their corporate social responsibility activities.


This chapter explores how Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi (all in the top 10 of US foundations by total giving) use their websites to articulate their CSR strategies. In order to achieve this goal, an exploratory research that combines semantic analysis of the way the mission, vision and objectives are integrated in their strategy was conducted. To do so the researchers saved the text about each company’s mission and vision from their main websites (the .com) and saved all the data associated to CSR communication and reporting included on each company website in a word document. One hundred and ninety-one pages of text were thus collected in August 2013 (67 pages of text for GlaxoSmithKline, 38 pages for Sanofi and 87 pages for Pfizer). Wordle and VOSViewer were used to gain insight into the emerging themes from the textual data collected and therefore compare the similarities and differences between the three companies.


Our findings show a strong emphasis on business-related activities for Sanofi and GSK reflected through the vocabulary used. Additionally, the two companies also portray corporate social responsibility as a tool for image and reputation building and for achieving wider yet profit-driven organisational goals. CSR messages therefore are intended to create and consolidate corporate identity. Moreover, whilst their mission focuses on patients, health, care, and access to medicine, the values are also oriented towards profit making and economic criteria. Pfizer on the other hand, although sharing some of the mission and values with the other two companies, presents itself as a more inclusive organisation with a collaborative environment and research-focused culture.

Research limitations/implications

While limited in scope and sample, this chapter raises many valuable questions for future research about the pharmaceutical sector’s understanding and definition of CSR and their differences and similarities in their online discourse and vocabulary in comparison with other profit-driven industries. Moreover, it raises questions about the style and nature of corporate communications and whether this should be consistent with that associated with CSR as well as whether it imposes the creation of a company-ego.

Practical implications and originality/value

This chapter promotes an alternative exploratory method of online discourses through computer-aided techniques.


Grigore, G., Adi, A. and Theofilou, A. (2015), "Digital Reflections of Pharmaceutical Companies and their CSR Communication Strategies", Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age (Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 221-239.



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