Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility on the Web: A Content Analysis of Sustainability Reports in World's Best Multinational Workplaces

Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility on the Web: A Content Analysis of Sustainability Reports in World's Best Multinational Workplaces

Dinçer Atlı (Uskudar University, Istanbul, Turkey), Maja Vidović (Rochester Institute of Technology Croatia, Croatia) and Mislav Ante Omazić (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSECSR.2018070101
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The main focus of this article is to thoroughly examine the practice of virtual corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication of the best multinational companies in the world. By distinguishing the benchmarks for CSR communication in this fast-growing area of online CSR communication, we are aiming to provide tools for easier analysis of the best practices and a more widespread adoption of those best practices by other organizations. The empirical analysis focuses on the aspects of the pyramid of CSR. For the topic coding, five categories were differentiated: society, environment, employees, sponsoring and volunteerism. The analysis focused on reports from five consecutive years (2010 to 2014) in order to recognize a trend.
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The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a hot topic for many companies presently. Even smaller companies are beginning to seek ways of developing their corporate image by communicating their CSR initiatives (Waddock, & Googins, 2011). There is a growing understanding that CSR has become a strategic driver of businesses and is no longer just an optional activity (Baron, 2001; Amaladoss, & Manohar, 2013). It is commonly recognized that CSR needs to be a part of a company’s core business practices (Osagie, Wesselink, Runhaar, & Mulder, 2018), or as in 2017 Lee, & Davies puts it, the incorporation of CSR in organizational strategic plans is now a norm.

Moreover, companies have come to recognize CSR as a competitive corporate marketing strategy (Becker-Olsen, Cudmore, & Hill, 2006; Pirsch, Gupta, & Landreth, 2007; Pomering, Johnson, & Noble, 2013; Puncheva-Minchelotti, Hudson, & Jin 2018). Nowadays, consumers expect companies to behave more responsible - to be responsible corporate citizens and to help solve social problems (Mohr, Webb, & Harris, 2001; Close Scheinbaum, Lacey, & Liang, 2017;, 2017). In an ICT literate cross-connected world, communicating about its CSR practices is something consumers prefer (Kim, & Ferguson, 2014; Koswara, Verity, Nugraha, & Lukman, 2015).

On the other hand, academics have shown considerable interest in examining CSR in recent years (Pasricha, Singh, & Verma, 2018). A number of studies have been looking into the communicative aspects of engaging in CSR and emphasize its importance in building relationships with strategic stakeholders (Waddock, & Googins, 2011). These stakeholders are not passive receivers of CSR information. Even before they learn about a CSR program, they have opinions regarding what CSR is and whether companies must adopt it (Bhattacharya, Sen, & Korschun, 2011). Furthermore, messages about corporate ethical and socially responsible initiatives are likely to evoke strong and often positive reactions among stakeholders (Morsing, & Schultz, 2006; Utgård, 2018; Pasricha, Singh, & Verma, 2018). Additionally, a recent study confirms that CSR leads to economic, social, and environmental sustainability (Sinthupundaja, & Kohda, 2017). This proves that the stakeholders interested in companies behaving socially responsible are far-reaching.

Considering the best medium for communicating a company’s CSR activities, the internet is already recognized as an easy and efficient mechanism to communicate with a wide and diverse readership. Commercial websites are treated as public documents, which render them available to scrutiny equal to or more stringent than the printed form (Coupland, 2005). The important point is that using technology does not have to create distance between an organization and its publics (Kent, & Taylor, 1998). Virtuality implies the internet is a space not relying on institutions and commercial interests. However, this view denies the role of a website as a form of communication in which the narrator will be ultimately called upon to account for the identity constructed in interaction (Coupland, 2005).

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