Session 16, Schultz & Gond

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CSR Communication & Theories


    • Friederike Schultz, VU University Amsterdam
  • Jean-Pascal Gond, HEC Montreal

2. Outline

  • Introduction
  • Territory-Mapping: Communication in CSR-related research
    • Functionalist perspectives: Management, Marketing, PR-Research
    • Political-normative perspectives
    • Culturalist perspectives
  • Re-Orientation socio-cognitivist perspective:CSR as communication & medium
  • Conclusions

3. Introduction 4. 1. Introduction

  • Societal relevance
  • CSR as communicative construct &fuzzy concept,which is filled with different meanings by actors(institutionalization as translation)
  • Driven by competition (mimesis), politics (regulation) and moral pressure
  • Academic discourse
  • Increasing academic interest in the role of communication
  • Deficit & Goal
  • Systematic cartography which takes communication and media into account
  • Towards formulation of socio-constructivist perspective

5. Common perspectives for CSR & Communication

  • Functionalist view
  • Political-normative view
  • Culturalist view

6. 2. Territory-Mapping: Functionalist view

  • Management Research
  • Main argument: business case for CSR -CSR creates long-term value through influencing
    • purchase intentions(e.g., Murray & Vogel, 1997)
    • reputation (mediator between CSR and financial performance; CSR as instrument to protect reputation and protect from risk in crises)
    • Legitimacy: Positive effect of social and environmental disclosures
  • Differentiated views evolved in the last years:
    • Differences with regard to industries, social, financial, environmental performance, market risk, institutional ownership, nature of business activities
    • Comparisons (volunteering or cash?)(Brammers & Millington, 2005)
    • Critique on Fortune Reputation Index, which focuses on financial processes only
  • CSR as communicative tool to improve the reputation and enhance transparency.

7. 2. Territory-Mapping: Functionalist view

  • Marketing Research
  • Analyses on impact of CSR on brand value, reputation and sales
  • In fields like corporate giving and philanthropy, cause-related marketing, social marketing or sustainable consumption
  • Main Argument: Social marketing increases
    • reputation and competitive advantage(Fombrun & Shanley, 2001; William & Barrett, 2000; Jahdi & Acikdilli, 2009; Brown & Dacin, 1997, Webb & Mohr, 1998; Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001; Chattananon et al., 2007) ,
    • brand awareness(Br nn & Vrioni, 2001) ,
    • brand credibility(Brown & Dacin, 1997)
    • and finally purchase intentions(Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001)

8. 2. Territory-Mapping: Functionalist view

  • Marketing Research
  • Emerging discussion on moderators:
    • alignment with core corporate activities,
    • stable CSR history(Vanhamme & Grobben, 2009),
    • positive pre-reputation(Palazzo & Richter, 2005; Yoon et al., 2006)
    • motives:positive CSR associations exert influence on product evaluations; negative CSR associations have detrimental effects on product evaluations
    • General opinion on CSR:Consumers react negatively to negative CSR information, whereas only the most supportive react positively to positive information
    • awareness of CSR:consumers tend to have a low CSR awareness (Pomering & Dolnicar, 2009; Mohr et al., 2001; Bhattacharya & Sen, 2004)
    • Motives for the CSR activity
    • Source through which consumers learned about it
    • Trustworthyness: source credibility, trustworthiness, reliability, a lack of skepticism(Jahdi & Acikdilli, 2009): low trust and high skepticism lowers reputation and purchases (Yoon, Grhan-Canlli, Schwarz, 2006; Webb & Mohr, 1998; Br nn & Vrioni, 2001)

9. 2. Territory-Mapping: Functionalist view

  • Public Relations
  • focuses on CSR-related content of internal and external communication (Morsing & Schultz, 2006), media and internet
  • relation between corporations and publics / several stakeholders
  • modes, instruments and channels of CSR communication: social reporting, strategic aspects such as reputation risk management
  • partially marketing communication instrument
  • protection shield against reputational damage(Klein & Dawar, 2004; Fombrun & Gardberg, 2000)
  • corporate citizenship as strategic instrument to build relations with communities, downside reputational risk(Fombrun, Gardberg, & Barnett, 2000)
    • Ceremonial, symbolic practices, direct or promotional communication as less effective than dialogue (Morsing & Schultz, 2006)
    • Underlying idea ofadaptation:behaving and communicating in a congruent manner, acting transparently in publics and being adaptive to external demands builds trust
  • CSR is as communicative tool to improve the reputation and enhance transparency.

10. 2. Territory-Mapping: Functionalist view CSR as communicative tool

  • Public Relations
  • Emerging discussion on moderators:
    • Performance
    • CSR History: long CSR history better for reputation(Vanhamme & Grobben, 2009)
    • Size: Large firms face more reputational risks(Fombrun & Shanley, 1990)
    • Visibility: higher visibility exhibits greater concern to improve corporate image
  • But also: Emerging discussion onreputational risks !
    • dysfunctional effects of non-conformative behavior
    • huge criticism on CSR-failures increases distrust and feelings of hypocrisy
    • self-promoters paradox(Ashorfth & Gibbs, 1990, p. 188)

11. 2. Territory-Mapping: Political-normative view

  • Political-normative view
  • CSR as power relationship, public as political arena
  • Rooted in an objectivist tradition: uncover the real agendas of corporations; CSR often described in terms of green washing
  • Political role of corporations in societies(Palazzo & Scherer, 2006) , Norm-Setters instead of Norm-Followers( Flohr, Rieth, & Schwindenhammer, 2010)
  • CSR discussed with regard to legitimacy: Corporations receive moral legitimacy through dialogic communication(Scherer, Palazzo)
  • CSR as political communication instrument to build legitimacyand shape the political agenda via media & communication.

12. 2. Territory-Mapping: culturalist view

  • Culturalist view
  • CSR as cultural product: content, institutionalization and communicative effect depends on cultural context & norms (Gond & Matten, 2007; see also Gj lberg, 2009; Matten & Moon, 2008)
  • Discusses sense making processes and narratives
  • Analyzes differences in organizational culture, national cultural
  • Main arguments:
    • Differences between countries in reporting on CSR(Golob & Bartlett, 2007) , philanthropic donations, governance and interactions with political actors(Habisch et al., 2005; Chapple & Moon, 2006)
    • CSR Communication strategies need to be more defensive in implicit CSR-cultures in order to prevent from described dysfunctional effects on reputation (Eisenegger & Schranz 2011)
    • CSR is cultural product and way for corporations to communicatively adopt to cultural values .

13. socio-constructivist perspective 14. 3. Territory-Mapping: socio-constructivist view Media-perspective: Organizations Mass Media Recipients & Publics perceptions (reputation, trust) purchasebehaviour negative word-of-mouth Social Media Social Media Social Media 15. 3. Territory-Mapping: socio-constructivist view

  • Media-perspective:
  • Media reality: reality is increasingly medially negotiated and constructed (mediatization)
  • Mediatization: increasing orientation on medial logics
  • Mediation: media content and coverage reflects and influences the public opinion about organizations(Carroll & McCombs, 2003)
  • Media-logic:Moralized communication (Luhmann)
  • Only view studies:
    • Lee and Carroll (2011): attention for CSR as issue continually increased in the U.S.-media within last 25 years, opinion pieces mainly negative, tendency increasing
    • negativity bias: Negative framing decreases reputation and legitimacy, whereas positively framed CSR news do not evoke such strong reactions(e.g., Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001)
    • Influence media on organizations: news coverage on environmental issues increases environmental reporting(Aerts & Cormier, 2009)

16. 3. Territory-Mapping: socio-constructivist view

  • Organizational Communication Perspective (CCO, Luhmann,)
  • Communicationas dynamic, non-linear organization of realityandco-orientation
    • as ongoing process of making sense of the circumstances in which people collectively find ourselves and of the events that affect them. [] Communication thus concerns both descriptions of existing states (the epistemic function of speech) and what to do about them (the deontic function of speech, with the focus on virtual or as yet unrealized states) (Taylor & van Every, 2000, p. 58).
  • Objects & Descriptions:
    • Objects are neither entities represented in language (realism) nor constructs developed through language (constructivism)
    • Objects are existentinlanguages, sum of developed, competing descriptions
    • Reality is directly integrated in communication(see illocutionary speech-acts, Austin, 1962)
  • Organizations& Identity
    • emerge & consist through communication(Taylor & van Every, 2000, Luhmann, 1995, 1998, 2000)
    • No distinction between subjective inner & objective outer sphere of organizations
  • CSR as communicative construct and medium.It is performed and constituted through communication and signalizes adaptation.

17. 3. Territory-Mapping: socio-constructivist view

  • Only view studies
  • Institutionalization of CSR as translation(Schultz & Wehmeier, 2010)
  • CCO & CSR(Lammers)
  • CSR, Polyphonic voices & Hypocrisy (Morsing, Christensen, etc.)
  • Moral Communication & mythological communication(Schultz, 2011):
    • Means to reduce complexity, variety, ambiguity, and keep the idea of unity, causality and controllability alive
    • Reduction of tensions and enabling of differences to co-exist,
    • CSR serves to maintain the self-organization or autopoiesis of organizations and societies (Schultz, 2011)

CSR as communicative construct and medium.It is performed and constituted through communication and signalizes adaptation. 18. Conclusions 19. 3. Conclusions

  • CSR as a communicative phenomenon can thus be regarded as:
  • way to enhance transparency (functional view)
  • way for corporations to adopt their discourse to dominant values (cultural view)
  • way to shape political processes in altering agenda-setting (political view)
  • performed or constituted through communicative activities both discursively and materially (socio-constructivist view)
  • Research agenda:
  • Overcome dominance of organization-centered perspectives
    • Analyze influence of CSR-activities on news(e.g. Kiousis, Popescu, & Mitrook, 2007) , effects of news on public(Carroll, 2004)and mediating role of news in the effect of CSR Communication on public(Carroll, 2010)
    • Analyze impact of moral communication
    • Analyze role of social media in networked publics
    • Analyze CSRas communicationandas medium