Bridging Cultural Dimensions and Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

Bridging Cultural Dimensions and Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7946-5.ch004
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The relation between culture and CSR communication has been explored often in several fields of study (e.g., international management, marketing, organisation, communication). In order to show the role played by culture as an antecedent of CSR, many academics focus on national and regional cultural differences in CSR communication. Furthermore, they highlight that cultural values have to be the basis on which businesses and CSR strategies are developed, as they allow organisations to arrange long-term sustainable relationships with all relevant stakeholders. Starting from these considerations, this chapter presents a literature review illustrating the different approaches that link CSR and CSR communication (and other related fields) to culture and cultural dimensions. The chapter briefly explores several sides of the argument, presenting theoretical and practical implications that arise while analysing the areas of ethics and sustainability in a cultural perspective. Finally, the chapter recommends areas for further discussion and research on the relation of culture and CSR from the perspective of online communication.
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In the previous chapters, an explanation and definition of culture and organisational culture were offered. Now, in order to set the basis for the development of the rest of the book and of the empirical research, the connection between ethics and culture (cultural dimensions) is examined.

Culture expresses moral and ethical aspects that guide behaviours and the way individuals interact within a society (McRobbie, 2018; Schein, 1990, 2010). Generations transmit cultural features, and for this reason those features become shared rules that a particular society accepts and considers norms, useful for directing the course of everyday life (Johnson, 2018; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Mosse, 2018; Surber, 2018).

Along with myths, archetypes, traditions and rituals, culture functions as a means of easily understanding what is right and morally accepted in a community, to give members of the group a sense of commitment and protection. Without these important structured elements, living in a society would be impossible and would create uncertainty in its population (Barker, Ingersoll, & Teal, 2014; Schein, 1996).

Inside a company is the same need to belong to a community. Here, culture can be defined not as something that an organisation has, but as something an organisation is (Jin, Drozdenko, & DeLoughy, 2013). However, it is important to add that culture could also be viewed as what a company has (e.g., human resources, skills).

In brief, from the company’s perspective, culture plays a guiding role that aids stakeholders in knowing which actions align with the corporate personality (Brinkman, 1999; Cacioppe, 1998). Connected with the idea of sharing intents (Ghobadian & O’Regan, 2002; McDermott & Stock, 1999) it is useful to apply it to solving managerial issues, and it is specific to each specific business (Sadri & Lees, 2001; Silvester, Anderson, & Patterson, 1999).

These unique characteristics of organisational culture emphasise that the cultural values can exist only if they are accepted by the majority of corporate members (Cray & Mallory, 1998; Rowden, 2002), and that cultural features can also help in strengthening organisational behaviour patterns (Juechter, Fisher, & Alford, 1998; Ogbor, 2001).

Moreover, national culture and organisational culture both have the power to affect the definition of what is moral and ethical in a certain group (Pohl, 2006). In fact, ethics participates in what culture is (Visser & Tolhurst, 2017). This implies that employees and individuals belonging to different groups and organisations can consider other cultures unethical and immoral. For this reason, the concept is often the basis for the definition of ethnocentrism and drives country-of-origin evaluations (Sinclair, 1993).

Similarly, the existing link between ethics and organisational culture pushes companies to create and communicate how they put this strong connection into practise. Many organisations actually present in their orientations, and particularly in vision and mission statements, explicit references to social and environmental responsibility (Kaptein, 2009). This communication strategy reflects company willingness to highlight to their publics that they evaluate their business performances according to the ethical code of conduct they embrace (Schein, 1996). In this way, companies also succeed in promoting their ability to rate their achievements according to their peculiar organisational culture.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Leadership: Leadership involves motivating employees and/or groups of people to act toward reaching a shared objective. It also entails the ability to inspire others and being ready to cover this role. Successful leadership needs good ideas, but the leader must also be capable of communicating these ideas to people that he/she would like to encourage, in a way that pushes them to perform as the leader suggests. Thus, the leader is the person with charisma and personal skills that engages others in following his/her plans.

Customer Service: Customer service refers to all types of interaction between consumers and product providers during the process of buying, before the sale and afterward. It is considered essential to add value to products and to build durable relationships.

Brand Equity: Brand equity is the sum of all associations and behaviour expressed by a brand’s customers and other stakeholders, which allows the brand to create better awareness, greater sales volume and/or greater margins than could be achieved without the brand’s strength.

Public Relations: Public Relations (PR) recognises, builds and maintains reciprocally beneficial relationships between the organisation and various relevant stakeholders. PR is communication through which the organisation promotes itself as a whole, enabling adjusting, modifying or maintaining the business environment for the purpose of attaining corporate goals.

Vision: The vision statement is an inspirational depiction of how an organisation would like to be, of what strategic objective it would like to attain in the mid-term or long-term future. It aims to act as a sort of guidance for all employees, allowing them to select current and future courses of action.

Country of Origin: Country of origin is used as an indication of the product quality and for assessing existing quality attributes, i.e., reliability, design, price, warranty and robustness. It is a peculiar feature that links the product typical of a country (or built in it) to symbolic, immaterial and emotional benefits, such as lifestyle, social status, social identity and national pride.

Mission: A mission statement is a short description of a company’s primary purpose. It says to stakeholders the reason a company exists. The mission statement must be communicated not only to external stakeholders but also to the internal publics such as managers and employees. Mission statements can describe the organisation in many ways; however, all mission statements must generally depict the organisation’s current capabilities, customer focus, actions and business structure.

Sustainability Communication: Sustainability communication is essential for promoting and managing stakeholder expectations in terms of social requests; it is also a potent tool for assessing how sustainable firms’ commitment to socio-environmental issues is developed. It involves communicating a company’s CSR contents and features by spreading corporate economic, social and environmental concerns, as well as considering the inputs of many stakeholders in the process. This process is essential for reputation management, reaching maximum return on capital invested and boosting fruitful relationships with relevant publics.

Corporate Nonfinancial Performances: Nonfinancial objectives and performances are set by organisations with the aim of improving the company as a whole, including its image and reputation. Nonfinancial performance usually relates to areas such as customer service, corporate social responsibility, production quality and employee satisfaction. These areas allow companies to perform better not only in nonfinancial matters, but also in the market to increase profits.

Orientation: A business orientation is an essential philosophy that establishes the nature and aim of all corporate behaviours, strategies and tactics. Different orientations can affect perceptions of corporate priorities, how consumers are considered, and how the organisation sets its whole business approach. Therefore, a business orientation, seen as a corporate philosophy, tends to permeate the overall decision-making framework of its management.

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