Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice: Volume 6

Subject:

Table of contents

(31 chapters)
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List of Tables

Pages ix-x
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List of Figures

Pages xi-xii
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Acknowledgements

Pages xxiii-xxiv
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Preface

Pages xxv-xxvi
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Purpose

This chapter is to introduce to the reader the background, purpose, core themes and structure of the volume. Brief summaries of all the following chapters in the book are provided.

Design/methodology/approach

Literature review and desk research.

Findings

This chapter suggests that CSR communication as a cross-section of communication studies and CSR research should be highlighted as an important subject of inquiry to bridge the communicative gap between businesses and their stakeholders as well as the public at large. An initial theoretical framework on CSR communication is presented.

Research implications

A general research direction is provided for CSR communication. It encourages more future scholarly studies in this emerging and fascinating field.

Social/practical implications

The overall purpose is to help grow knowledge and develop understanding of the ways in which businesses communicate CSR.

Originality/value

It is the first time in the field of CSR communication that a relatively comprehensive and systematic framework is presented. The chapters that follow in the book cover many contents of the framework.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to address the question of how communication studies can prove its value in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR). As many disciplines seek to understand CSR, the role of communication has been relatively underexplored despite its prevalence in demonstrating and shaping social responsibility positions and practice.

Design/methodology/approach

Literature review.

Social implications

The literature review points to what we consider as four aces. Communication studies alert us to (1) how meaning is constructed through communication, something that has implications for the management of organizations as publics hold different views of CSR and expect different things from them; (2) how a dialogue between an organization and its publics should unfold; (3) how practices of transparency can assist organizations to come across as trustworthy actors; and, importantly, (4) how a complexity view is fruitful to grasp the CSR communication process.

Originality/value

These four key themes could be instructive for practitioners who want to argue for and demonstrate the usefulness of strategic communication for the management of CSR and bridge meso and macro levels of analysis.

Purpose

To understand the communication important to social capital development and community engagement in regional communities and its relevance to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Methodology/approach

Qualitative approach including focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Case studies of three regional Australian and Canadian communities at different stages of community development.

Findings

Communication, both traditional and in new media forms such as social media, was important to social capital development provided that it was diverse, appropriate to community needs and extended its reach to community members to include those who were marginalised. Access and skill issues affected some community members’ engagement when they attempted to use social media, although the increasing use of social media as a connector was observed. These findings have implications for organisations’ CSR, as organisations can be responsive to their communities if they also communicate and engage with them for mutual benefit.

Research limitations/implications

A pilot, exploratory study that highlighted the varied context of community social capital and the diversity of communication that engages and includes community members; ongoing research is in progress to gain understanding of regional communities’ connections and networks, and how to strengthen them and how stakeholders are identified and supported.

Practical implications

The study indicated that it is important to explore all communication avenues and extend the reach and participation of community communication through diverse channels including social media. The research provided some good examples where organisations support and encourage community social capital development – this underpins the success of other programmes such as CSR programmes.

Social implications

To develop sound networks and relationships where organisations and their communities develop trust, deal with issues and collaboratively problem solve. Social capital develops and supports other forms of capital – without it organisations may be too focused on ‘doing good’ rather than ‘being good’.

Originality/value

This chapter provides insight into communication layering and the context of social capital development for effective communication in regional communities. Social responsiveness is possible when organisations understand their community; this chapter puts forward the notion that organisations are members of their communities so that their social capital is important to all they do, including their planning and delivery of CSR programmes.

Purpose

The chapter develops a phase model of strategic planning in integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication by presenting CSR as a mindset in communication processes.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter provides rationales for establishing a new phase model of strategic planning in CSR communication by adapting existing models of strategic communications. In this context, the main focus is on the need to involve stakeholders in CSR communication processes (Morsing & Schultz, 2006).

Findings

The chapter argues that in the sense of CSR communication, stakeholders should be involved in the strategic planning process from the beginning, with respect to the issues that the corporation and targeted stakeholder groups have in common.

Research limitations/implications

The chapter concentrates on selected key aspects of CSR and CSR communication. In particular the aspects such as reputation, credibility, ethical alignment and stakeholder involvement are considered as prerequisites for understanding the construction of the phase model.

Practical implications

This chapter provides practical implications for developing communication concepts in CSR communication in daily business practice.

Originality/value

This chapter facilitates a comprehensive understanding of strategic CSR communication as part of CSR reflected in the development processes of communication concepts.

Purpose

The antecedents and typical stages of development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in a given organization or type of organization have been of minor interest in CSR research. Contrary to that the chapter argues that CSR communication strategies need to take the genesis and drivers of CSR institutionalization into account.

Methodology/approach

The chapter develops a complex set of interrelated drivers for CSR institutionalization from a literature review – among them leadership styles and management fashion. The chapter further discusses the influence of leadership styles and management fashions on CSR institutionalization and focuses on the diffusion of management concepts along a management fashion cycle. It then refers to executive trainers as the key facilitator and promoter of new business concepts and presents data from a first online-survey among German speaking management trainers.

Findings

The chapter clears manager’s role in institutionalization of CSR by contextualizing their behavior in a portfolio of performance indicators. From a management fashion perspective the various forms of explicit and implicit CSR are linked to management styles.

Practical implications

The chapter lays ground for further research of CSR institutionalization and integration into business strategy by providing a conceptualization of CSR drivers and settings that relate to a given organization. As such it is designed as groundwork for a yet to develop CSR scorecard.

Originality/value

The connection between organizational type, organizational environment, leadership behavior, and the chosen CSR approach of a corporation is usually overseen. The chapter aims to uncover this connection.

Purpose

The chapter proposes a model for evaluating environmental information based on informativity as a measurement of whether corporate environmental disclosures provide readers with information relevant for making reasonable assessments of companies’ environmental work.

Methodology/approach

On a general level, informativity denotes a set of universal principles for information qualities. In order to make informed assessments, information ought to provide readers with information on specific projects, outcome, and long-term impact. The model proposed herein allows researchers and practitioners to quantify corporate environmental information based on a set of key textual variables. By allowing for the quantification of qualitative information, the model allows for comparative studies of CSR communication across, for example, companies, sectors, and nations.

Research implications

The model is applicable for corporations with an interest to evaluate their performance by applying standardized and set principles.

Practical implications

The model can be used as a tool for consumers and investors alike in making better and more informed assessments about a corporation’s environmental initiatives and performances. This application is particularly relevant for stakeholders with an interest in developing statistical data for assessing and benchmarking environmental communication.

Originality

The chapter proposes a model for evaluating environmental information as a measurement of whether corporate environmental disclosures provide readers with information relevant for making reasonable assessments of companies’ environmental work.

Purpose

This chapter seeks to reveal what are the implications of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) debate on international investment law by focusing on the specific example of public health. The right to health is one of the human rights secured in international law and in the national legislation of a majority of States. This chapter will provide examples of investment cases concerning tobacco control measures, imposed by the Host States for the purpose of improving public health, though challenged by the tobacco companies under International Investment Agreements (IIAs) in investment tribunals. These specific examples cast rather general questions regarding the legal framework of international investment framework and its role in providing sufficient policy space for Host States to implement the public policies and to ensure that foreign companies adhere to the CSR standards.

Methodology/approach

In order to investigate what are the implications of the CSR debate on international investment law on the example of tobacco industry, the author performs a literature review and analyze two tobacco disputes and its possible implication on the public health debate and protection of foreign investors.

Findings

This case study illustrates the complex paradigm that interlink economic and human rights obligations of States on one side of the spectrum and property rights and social responsibilities of tobacco companies on the other side.

Originality/value of chapter

This chapter addresses a very topical and pertinent issue in public international law, namely: the role of public interest norms in the regime of foreign direct investment.

Purpose

This chapter proposes using a dialectical approach infused with elements of dialogism to analyze polyphonic discourses of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in order to create more nuanced understandings of the contradictions, oppositions, tensions, and complexities that characterize the conceptualization, enactment, and communication of CSR.

Methodology/approach

This chapter draws upon the notion of dialectics discussed by scholars such as Hegel and Marx and infuses it with Bakhtinian notions of dialogism to create a dialectical framework for analyzing discourses of CSR.

Findings

This chapter illustrates the conceptual argument for a dialectical approach to examining discourses of CSR by using the example of the dualistic discussion of corporations as agents of empowerment or exploitation. When examined through a dialectical lens, the empowerment–exploitation debate reveals, among others, the dissolution of boundaries between the categories of empowerment and exploitation, the coexistence and interplay of a multitude of related oppositions, and raises questions on praxical patterns employed by social actors to manage the dialectical tensions inherent in everyday organizing.

Social implications

A dialectical approach in communication studies could open possibilities for acknowledging the co-existence of and interplay among multiple voices in society, thus opening spaces for engaging with diverse perspectives and creating a more holistic understanding of complex social constructs such as CSR.

Originality

A dialectical approach that attends to tensions negotiated by social and organizational actors as they try to conceptualize, enact, and communicate CSR can enrich the study of polyphonic discourses of CSR by generating more textured and insightful understandings of CSR than those currently examined through mostly dualistic lenses.

Purpose

The translation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) values in customer awareness and engagement with the CSR values with the corporate brand is a key challenge for UK retailers. This chapter examines the incorporation of CSR in the core brand discourse of Marks & Spencer (M&S), focusing on the interrelationship between CSR reporting and brand heritage.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Fairclough’s (1989) method of critical discourse analysis, this chapter reports on the key discourses around CSR to emerge from annual reports of M&S in the period from the 1940s to 2010s.

Findings

Findings identify how messages relating to CSR are shaped and presented to stakeholders, noting the textual patterns that emerge in the M&S discourse. Patterns included a substantial reliance on relational values, the strategic adoption of expressive values toward specific groups (employees, suppliers), and textual cues such as metaphor and over-wording as a means to draw out links to M&S brand heritage.

Research implications

The chapter highlights how we, as academics, need to consider both (a) the evolution of CSR reporting and how this reflects brand messages over time and (b) how CSR reporting is becoming integral in brand positioning for UK retailer brands.

Practical limitations

In dealing with archival materials, it is necessary to be selective and this can limit the range of textual patterns that might be articulated in the discourse analysis.

Originality/value

Limited research to date has examined the integration of CSR and brand heritage in organizational discourses. This study offers an in-depth examination of how this integration of CSR messages in brand communication has evolved for M&S – one of the United Kingdom’s foremost retail brands.

Purpose

The chapter aims to analyse the challenges needed in order to achieve the full integration of corporate reporting.

Approach

As a viewpoint chapter, both theoretical and practical problems are presented.

Findings

On the theoretical side, there is still an elusive relationship between environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators and financial performance. Conceptual models are still in the making and a global standard has not yet been achieved. Besides, as each company may have different CSR strategies, it might be difficult to achieve comparability among firms. On the practical side, there might be concerns about materiality of data (what actually merits to be informed) and the potential risks for disclosing additional information to the market.

Social implications

While the linkage between non-financial and financial results is not yet standard practice, it should be encouraged by stakeholders. The impact of integrated reporting is probably not going to be limited to investors and financial markets, as other stakeholders would have the opportunity to act on the information provided by these documents.

Originality/value

Integrated reporting is still a concept that is being developed. Thus, this chapter aims to contribute to this ongoing academic and practical debate.

Purpose

The authors have examined the developments in law and in practice concerning integrated reporting. An integrated report combines the most material elements of information about corporate performance (re: financial, governance, social and environmental functioning) – currently reported in separate reports – into one coherent whole. The authors first explore the motivation of companies and legislators to introduce integrating reporting. Next, they analyse how integrated reporting can be supported by legislation thereby taking into account the existing regulatory environment.

Methodology/approach

Literature study; desk research, analysing integrated reports; organisation of an international academic conference (30 May 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands).

Findings

EU law needs adjusting in the field of corporate annual reporting. Although integrated reporting is currently being explored by some frontrunners of the business community and is being encouraged by investors, the existing legal framework does not offer any incentive, nor is uniformity and credibility in the reporting of non-financial information stimulated. The law gives scant guidance to companies to that end. The authors argue that amending the mandatory EU framework can support the comparability and reliability of the corporate information. Moreover, a clear and sound EU framework on integrated corporate reporting will assist international companies in their reporting. Presently, companies have to comply with various regulations at an EU and a national level, which do not enhance a holistic view in corporate reporting. The authors provide options on how to do this. They suggest combining EU mandatory corporate reporting rules with the private regulatory reporting regime developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Research limitations/implications

Focus on EU and Dutch corporate reporting laws, non-legislative frameworks, and corporate practices of frontrunners.

Practical and social implications and originality/value of the chapter

The chapter can provide guidance to policymakers, companies and other stakeholders who want to form an opinion on how to legally support integrated reporting. It addresses important questions, especially concerning how European and domestic legislation could be adjusted in order to (i) reflect the newest insights regarding corporate transparency and (ii) become an adequate framework for companies with added benefits for financiers and investors. Moreover, it reports on the benefits of integrated reporting for reporting companies. The authors argue that integrated reporting can be a critical tool in implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the main corporate strategy of a company.

Purpose

Social networking sites (SNS) are enjoying growing popularity and have triggered new ethical issues including risks of deception, social grooming, cyber-bullying and surveillance. This development along with the growing power of SNS providers calls for an investigation of the CSR engagement of SNS companies. The chapter examines to what extent three prominent providers – Google, Facebook and Twitter – fulfill their responsibilities.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws heavily on a politicized concept of CSR, namely ‘corporate citizenship’ (Crane, Matten, & Moon, 2008a; Matten & Crane, 2005) and ‘political CSR’ (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007, 2011) and discusses the role SNS providers play in administering citizenship rights. The chapter takes a qualitative case study approach.

Findings

Facebook, Twitter and Google have not only made clear commitments to act responsibly, they actually enhance the citizenship status of their users in many ways, e.g. by offering a platform for democracy activists. Deficiencies and contradictions also become visible, e.g. SNS providers inhibit citizenship by failing to provide sufficient privacy protection.

Research limitations/implications

The chapter is limited by its case study approach, but provides valuable insights to an industry with considerable influence. It contributes to CSR research by applying and testing the politicized concept of CSR in the context of SNS providers.

Originality/value

Although SNS have received appraisal as effective tools of CSR communication, there has been little attention to CSR policy and practice of the companies providing social networks. This is unfortunate since the activities of SNS providers directly impact on millions of users worldwide.

Purpose

The era of globalization has increased the challenges for multinational corporations (MNCs) to retain legitimacy. In striving for legitimacy, MNCs increasingly engage in dialogue processes with their stakeholders. However, the era of globalization and the parallel rise of the Internet and the new “Web 2.0” have dramatically widened the range of options for such dialogue processes. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in particular make use of “social media” (e.g., Facebook, Weblogs, Twitter) which enable them to quickly generate attention regarding socially and environmentally harmful business practices by MNCs. In response, MNCs have started applying social media technologies for corporate communication purposes. However, given the novelty of these activities, we lack knowledge on how these organizations make use of social media. Therefore, in this chapter, we examine how MNCs and NGOs utilize one particular social media application, that is, Twitter, for dialogic stakeholder communication.

Design/methodology/approach

In our empirical study, we examine current practices of Twitter usage by MNCs and NGOs. We investigate a dataset of more than 3,000 Twitter articles from 30 MNCs and 30 NGOs in the German-speaking world. Our analysis is based on the “conceptual orality or literality” scale by Koch and Oesterreicher (1994).

Findings

The comparative analysis shows that on average MNCs and NGOs exhibit a surprisingly similar profile on Twitter. Both tend toward conceptual literality. However, the analysis of Tweets per organization reveals a much larger variance. At the extreme poles, while some NGOs (like Greenpeace Youth) make extensive use of the medium’s potential for conceptual orality, some MNCs (like Deutsche Börse) almost entirely adhere to conceptual literality. In other words, these MNCs promote a classical one-way model of communication and fail to make use of the dialogue-like qualities of the medium.

Research limitations

We analyzed a small number of organizations and we restricted our study to MNCs and NGOs in the German-speaking world. Furthermore, Twitter only allows for short messages with a maximum of 140 letters or signs. This, in turn, renders questionable whether the medium is suited to establish deliberative dialogues between MNCs and NGOs that are based on more elaborate arguments which can be expressed in the short format.

Originality/value

Our study addresses the lack of research regarding new possibilities for stakeholder communication in the age of social media. Moreover, the study methodologically contributes to the study of social media in the context of corporate communication by applying the scale of “conceptual orality or literality” to MNCs’ and NGOs’ Twitter usage.

Purpose

The aim of this chapter is to discuss the communicative side of modern companies operating in the food industry, paying attention to the CSR discourse conducted in online communication. In this contribution, an attempt is made to show how the dialogue on corporate social conscience taking place at corporate websites shapes the way companies can be perceived in terms of organizational metaphors and how this perception mirrors the performance of CSR-oriented companies.

Methodology/approach

The approach applied in this chapter relies on both discursive and social theories, characteristic of investigating metaphors. To narrow the scope of the research exclusively to one sector and its online identity, the author focuses on the role of websites and their discursive content to study the CSR communication in the food industry.

Findings

The analysis of online corporate representation related to CSR practices in the selected companies operating in the food industry has led to the creation of six metaphors that can be used to discuss the performance of modern food producers from the metaphorical perspective.

Research limitations

The chapter concentrates on analysing the selected websites of Polish and Italian food companies, without dividing the alimentation sector into subtypes.

Practical implications

The topic discussed in this study may be interesting not only for the specialists and academics interested in CSR but also for the broadly understood stakeholders of the alimentation sector.

Social implications

The chapter draws the readers’ attention to the role of communication in the relation between organizations and stakeholders and how it may shape organizational identities.

Originality

The issue of CSR-oriented communication in the food industry has not been studied in detail as far as organizational metaphors are concerned. As has been shown in this chapter, organizational metaphors facilitate the understanding of corporate identity in the alimentation sector, stressing its focus on corporate social conscience.

Purpose

This chapter explores the concept of ‘dharma’ (duty orientation) and ‘karma’ (action orientation) of corporate social responsibility (CSR) from Vedantic (Vedanta) viewpoints. Islam, Buddhism and Christianity have received wider attentions in the CSR literatures from philosophical and religious perspective. However, Vedanta is yet to be explored in the context of CSR. This chapter therefore is timely and fills the gap in the CSR literature.

Design/methodology/approach

In this chapter, the authors employ hermeneutics, a qualitative research methodology which involves the study, understanding and interpretation of religious texts of Vedanta particularly the ‘dharma’ and ‘karma’ in the context of CSR.

Findings

In a nutshell, the Vedanta provides an inside-out approach to CSR, which is development of the individual leader’s self-conscience. The leaders and the role they play in corporations are crucial in ensuring transparency, good conduct and governance towards the ultimate aim of achieving CSR.

Originality/value

This chapter analyses the Vedantic perspectives on communication in establishing CSR objectives. It investigates the problems and prospects of Vedantic style of communicating CSR.

Purpose

This chapter offers new insights into the understanding of internal (employee) perceptions of organizational corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and strategies.

Methodology/approach

This study explores the significance of employees’ involvement and scepticism upon CSR initiatives and focuses on the effects it may have upon word of mouth (WOM) and the development of employee–organisation relationships. Desk research introduces the research questions. Data for the research questions were gathered through a self-completion questionnaire distributed in a hardcopy form to the sample.

Findings

An individual’s level of scepticism and involvement appears to affect the development of a positive effect on employees’ WOM. Involvement with the domain of the investment may be a central factor affecting relationship building within the organization, and upon generation of positive WOM.

Practical implications

The chapter offers a conceptual framework to public relations (PR) and corporate communications practitioners, which may enrich their views and understanding of the use and value of CSR for communication strategies and practices.

Social implications

For-profit organisations are major institutions in today’s society. CSR is proffered as presenting advantages for (at macro level) society and (micro level) the organization and its employees.

Originality/value of chapter

Concepts, such as involvement and scepticism, which have not been rigorously examined in PR and corporate communication literature, are addressed. By examining employee perceptions, managers and academic researchers gain insights into the acceptance, appreciation and effectiveness of CSR policies and activities upon the employee stakeholder group. This will affect current and future CSR communication strategies. The knowledge acquired from this chapter may be transferable outside the for-profit sector.

Purpose

We examine the role of communication in stimulating consumer attitudes and buying behavior regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Methodology

We review the literature on communicating CSR to consumers through (1) messages constructed and verified by the company (such as product claims and corporate advertising), (2) messages constructed by the company, but verified by a third party (such as disclosures), and (3) messages constructed and verified by a third party (such as independent consumer guides and publicity).

Findings

Communication messages constructed and verified by the company can be quite effective in persuading consumers, if they are communicated in a credible way. The latter can, for example, be done by including specific behaviors and/or outcomes in the message. Messages constructed by the firm, but verified by a third party tend to have a higher credibility, but risk containing either too little information or too much. Finally, messages constructed and verified by a third party can be seen as highly credible, but can sometimes be seen as merely PR. In addition, both messages focusing on deontological responsibility (the firm’s motives and behavior), and messages focusing on consequentialist responsibility (the outcomes of the firm’s behavior) seem important to consumers.

Practical implications

The results offer suggestions on how to communicate about CSR to consumers.

Originality/value of the chapter

The chapter provides the first comprehensive overview of the literature on communication about CSR to consumers.

Purpose

To investigate consumer responses to conditional (CRM) versus unconditional (corporate philanthropy) corporate giving initiatives in advertising. Cross-cultural approach to investigate whether Dutch and Germans differ in their responses.

Design/methodology/approach

2×3, between-subjects experiment, involving 178 Dutch and German consumers (convenience samples). Nationality and type of corporate giving initiative were the independent variables. Type of corporate giving initiative was manipulated in a product advertisement. Attitude to company, attitude to product and purchasing intent were measured in a written questionnaire.

Findings

Main effect for type of corporate giving initiative: participants exposed to the conditional (CRM) or the unconditional (corporate philanthropy) giving initiatives displayed significantly more positive attitudes to company than participants in the control condition. Main effect for nationality: German participants were significantly more positive about the product and the company than the Dutch. No effects on purchasing intent, and no interaction between nationality and type of corporate giving initiative.

Practical implications

Communicating about corporate giving (in advertising) can contribute to positive consumer outcomes, with respect to attitude to the company. The two nationalities studied did not differ in their response to the two types of corporate giving initiative, suggesting that both types could be effective in boosting corporate reputation in these countries.

Originality/value

Cross-cultural research on consumer response to CSR initiatives is underrepresented, as are studies that investigate the relative effects of different types of corporate giving. This study regionally expands research on the efficacy of corporate giving to Germany and the Netherlands.

About the Editors

Pages 425-426
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About the Authors

Pages 427-429
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DOI
10.1108/S2043-9059(2014)6
Publication date
2014-07-29
Book series
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78350-796-2
eISBN
978-1-78350-796-2
Book series ISSN
2043-9059