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The drama of corporate social responsibility communication

Maria Ivanova-Gongne (School of Business and Economics, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland)
Stefan Lång (School of Business and Economics, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 15 January 2020

Issue publication date: 22 May 2020




This paper aims to investigate a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) communications in a business network with regard to the flow of critical events related to CSR.


The paper focuses on the drama that unfolded at a Nordic-based multinational corporation, Stora Enso, after a critical event related to CSR and the specific signs and codes applied by the company to justify its actions. To achieve the aims, the authors conducted a dramaturgical and semiotic analysis of the company’s corporate communications in connection with various actions prior to or following the major critical event.


The findings consist of a five-act drama that unfolded around certain CSR communication activities at the company. The authors followed the company’s shift in communication strategy as they were compelled to adopt a more responsive and involved approach. The results also show the roles of the various business network actors in shaping CSR communications.

Practical implications

This case has practical uses for providing the framework to create effective messages at different stages of the communication process related to a major CSR event.


The originality of the study lies in its application of a dramaturgical and semiotic approach to the analysis of CSR communication. It also contributes to the scarce literature on CSR communication within business networks.



Ivanova-Gongne, M. and Lång, S. (2020), "The drama of corporate social responsibility communication", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 233-258.



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