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Article
Publication date: 14 May 2019

Katharina Hetze, Paula Maria Bögel, Andreas Emde, Sigrid Bekmeier-Feuerhahn and Yvonne Glock

The purpose of this paper is to present an empirical analysis of CSR communication posted on the websites of 70 companies listed on the main stock markets in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an empirical analysis of CSR communication posted on the websites of 70 companies listed on the main stock markets in German-speaking countries, the so-called DACH region. The results of this analysis offer answers to questions that are currently being discussed in the CSR literature, namely, on the importance attributed to stakeholder information vs stakeholder dialogues in (online) CSR communication.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a quantitative content analysis, the study examines the extent to which leading German, Austrian and Swiss companies are meeting communication and CSR-related requirements, especially regarding stakeholder dialogue and overall stakeholder involvement.

Findings

Drawing on Morsing and Schultz’s (2006) theoretical insights concerning stakeholder engagement, this study shows that current CSR communication primarily provides information for stakeholders and contains only a few elements of consultation with stakeholders. In addition, no elements indicating stakeholder involvement in decision processes were found. Data analysed in 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2016 for the German DAX companies allowed for comparisons over time. A closer examination of these data revealed increasing professionalism in CSR communication, especially in the provision and presentation of information. Regarding information clarity and opportunities for dialogue, however, the results show low progress. The criteria set developed for the study provides guidance for how companies can improve their CSR communication, but the findings on the long-term slow progress in stakeholder involvement, in some aspects even a decrease in dialogue, also raise questions about the (perceived) use of online CSR dialogues for companies.

Research limitations/implications

Communication is viewed from a strategic instrumental perspective. The empirical analysis focusses on the technical possibilities offered by the internet to make CSR communications and reporting available and understandable to stakeholders and to promote dialogue with and among stakeholders.

Originality/value

By focussing on online CSR communication in the DACH region, this study contributes to the current state of research and offers several recommendations for practitioners; it particularly provides critical reflection on online stakeholder dialogues and related paradigms (constitutive vs functionalistic perspective).

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 24 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 6 June 2016

Katharina Hetze and Herbert Winistörfer

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how the 106 largest banks in the world use their corporate websites for corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how the 106 largest banks in the world use their corporate websites for corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication, identifying CSR communication patterns by continent.

Design/methodology/approach

An analysis of the location of CSR information on the banks’ corporate websites, a longitudinal analysis of the publication of CSR reports by the banks from 2000 to 2012, and a content analysis of the most current CSR reports in the recent period of study were undertaken.

Findings

Three-quarters of the banks communicate on CSR issues on their corporate website – either located in the section “About Us” or under a separate “CSR” heading which is directly accessible on the front homepage. Company reports published on the website are the most important vehicle for CSR communication. Their publication increased from six for the publication year 2000 to a peak of 63 reports for the year 2011. The reports’ titles are most commonly linked to the concepts of “responsibility” or “sustainability” and refer to ten main stakeholders and topics. In a comparison between continents there is a difference in the use of titles: European banks prefer the title “Sustainability Report”, while Asian and American banks in particular prefer the title “CSR Report”.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focuses on corporate communications, and therefore does not address perspectives on CSR communication from other disciplines. Within CSR communication, sources of CSR-related information other than the corporate websites have not been considered.

Originality/value

This paper gives the first comprehensive picture of the trend in CSR communication on corporate websites in the global banking sector.

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