The Independency of Corporate Social Responsibility Communication From Cultural Dimensions on Corporate Websites

The Independency of Corporate Social Responsibility Communication From Cultural Dimensions on Corporate Websites

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7946-5.ch006

Abstract

The chapter starts presenting the main elements of the coding scheme, previously introduced, that the author used to analyse the cultural impact on corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication on company websites. It presents the results of a quantitative content analysis of the websites of 352 organisations belonging to different geographical areas and included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSWI) and in the Hang Seng (Mainland and HK) Corporate Sustainability Index (HSMHUS). The findings show that Hofstede's cultural dimensions and online CSR communication belong to two different levels of analysis: one is innate, intuitive, and diffusive, while the other one is planned, intentional, and rational. Thus, the findings suggest that cultural dimensions are factors that need to be analysed as social aspects, while CSR communication on corporate websites has to be explored as a strategic feature. Finally, the chapter recommends areas for further discussion and research about the relation between traditional culture, culture of the Internet, and CSR, reflecting on the achieved results that largely differ from previous studies related to Hofstede's cultural dimensions and CSR communication.
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Introduction

The chapter demonstrates that, nowadays, corporate communication and cultural dimensions fit into two different levels. At least, this seems to be true when it comes to analyse large and global companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication through their websites.

The study contributes to expand the investigation of the impact of country-level dimensions of cultural values on CSR communication. The achieved results point out that managerial decision-making processes (e.g., CSR communication strategies) are largely independent from Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (1991), and that companies’ CSR disclosure in different world regions do not follow the alleged cultural differences. Moreover, the chapter adds insights on the exploration of the “culture of the Internet”, highlighting that the strength of this aspect is overcoming the impact of traditional national cultural dimensions – diluting their undoubted influence - when analysing communication strategies and tactics.

The chapter is structured as follows. The Background section illustrates the coding scheme, previously introduced. Subsequently, the Main Focus of the Chapter section reports the results of this study and their discussion, with a specific focus on the comparison of companies in different world regions. As a result, the section Solutions and Recommendations offers relevant insights. Then, the section The Culture of the Internet provides a brief analysis of this concept as part of the groundwork for explaining the findings. The final section Future Research Directions and Conclusions addresses implications and potential avenues for the future.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Completeness (Principle of Communication): Completeness is reached when published CSR content is able to satisfy all stakeholders’ information needs. Completeness refers to the organisation’s ability to communicate the key elements in terms of CSR in a comprehensive way.

Principle of Communication: The CSR content has to be created following some principles of corporate communication that are important for the development of reputational capital. The respect of these principles of online and offline communication reduces the uncertainty in the navigation process. The principles are: visibility, clarity, authenticity, accuracy, consistency, and completeness.

Clarity (Principle of Communication): Clarity is the ability to communicate explicitly and understandably the message created by a company, avoiding to incur in misunderstanding. Clarity in textual communication assures a high degree of online and offline readability that is essential for stakeholders who aim at building a relation with the organisation.

Consistency (Principle of Communication): Accuracy is a principle which requires that CSR content is in line with corporate orientation and commitments. CSR communication is considered consistent if the organisation conveys congruent messages and contents, and promotes the same company’s commitment during the time.

Visibility (Principle of Communication): Visibility shows the company’s ability to make evident and traceable the CSR communication programs and content to all stakeholders. Strong visibility aids reinforcing corporate reputation and building trust.

Accuracy (Principle of Communication): Accuracy is a principle that allows the company to communicate specific, concrete, and demonstrable aspects, avoiding generic and vague statements. Accuracy is also related to transparency.

Authenticity (Principle of Communication): Authenticity refers to a communication that is not only straightforward, but also demonstrable and, as far as possible, easy to be verified. The principle of authenticity is achieved when the corporate communication is considered plausible by stakeholders. This happens if statements made by the organisation are sustained by authentic sources that corroborate what it declared, generating loyalty, awareness, and legitimacy in stakeholders’ perception. In order to attain this result, it is suitable to indicate credible external sources of information.

Intercoder Reliability: Intercoder reliability indicates the extent to which two or more independent coders share the same opinion on the coding of relevant contents with the implementation of the same coding scheme. When it comes to use surveys, the coding is frequently applied to interviewees’ answers to open-ended questions. However, in different kinds of explorations, coding could also be applied to study other types of printed or visual content (e.g., newspapers, political campaigns, commercials, and online contents). Besides, intercoder reliability can be seen as a significant constituent of the content analysis approach, without which the understanding of the content cannot be considered neither objective nor appropriate.

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