Category Archives: CSR

Ready, steady, engage!

Engagement is all over the place. I have jumped on the bandwagon together with Bree Devin and contributed a chapter to the forthcoming Handbook of communication engagement, edited by Kim Johnston & Maureen Taylor. The chapter explores engagement in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR), and highlights why engagement is not only seen as a foundational concept to CSR, but is necessary for CSR to succeed. Specifically, this chapter draws on existing literature to highlight three forms of engagement in relation to CSR – commitment, mapping of responsibilities, and closing the loop. Conceptualizations of engagement in relation to each of the forms are presented, whereby engagement is referred to as a state, process, and/or orientation. The chapter concludes by highlighting challenges associated with engagement in relation to CSR, as well future agendas based on the forms of engagement presented in this chapter, as well as new directions in CSR research.

Devin, B., & Ihlen, Ø. (in press). Corporate social responsibility and engagement. In K. A. Johnston & M. Taylor (Eds.), Handbook of communication engagement. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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CSR history in Norway

Not sure if you held your breath during these years, but anyway: The paper “Ye olde CSR: The historic roots of corporate social responsibility in Norway” has finally made it into print, which makes it appear real. The online version was published almost two years ago by the Journal of Business Ethics. Anyway, in the essay we trace the roots of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Norway. It is argued that a basic tenet of CSR, an orientation toward the concerns of stakeholders, has a long history in Norwegian business, predating the modern CSR movement. The essay underscores certain qualities of the Norwegian business system and the Norwegian political culture in order to explain how this stakeholder orientation grew and how CSR is perceived and practiced today. Corporatism and dialog are traits which position Norwegian businesses well to address CSR in a globalized economy. Present-day examples of companies and practices are provided to illustrate key features of Norwegian CSR, as it has developed over the course of more than 150 years.

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More responsibility

In many respects an outlier case, but then again perhaps not. While Emerita Heidi von Weltzien Hoivik and I have detailed the history of CSR in Norway previously, we now have a piece together with Caroline Ditlev-Simonsen as lead author. This new text includes a short historical overview, as well as a snapshot of the present landscape. It is included in a new edited volume from the honorable Samuel O. Idowu called Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe. Preprint version

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Rhetorical citizenship in the digital age

Soon hitting the streets, the seventh volume of the book series Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility. This time the title is Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age, and together with Elisabeth Hoff-Clausen I have a chapter there called “The rhetorical citizenship of corporations in the digital age”.

This is the gist of the chapter: Corporations also have communicative responsibilities towards society, something that is highlighted when applying the conceptual frame of rhetorical citizenship. The prime goal of this paper is to discuss what rhetorical citizenship as a normative aspiration might entail for corporations. From a descriptive perspective, we argue that rhetorical citizenship may appropriately describe the communicative practices that corporations are expected and induced to engage in by publics, not least in social media. While the vernacular discourse on corporations’ Facebook pages might not always resemble typical political deliberation, we consider the act of being present and responsive in social media a form of rhetorical citizenship.

Preprint version

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‘Because I am Worth It’

I have just had a paper accepted for the Barcelona PR Meeting #5, this time arranged in honor of Bob Heath! I will be presenting a paper written together with reknown Norwegian economic history professor Einar Lie. Our contribution is titled “‘Because I am Worth It’: A rhetorical analysis of the debate regarding CEO compensation.” There are huge national differences between the compensation CEO levels. The so-called Nordic model has, for instance, been dominated by egalitarian values and the CEO-to-worker pay ratio is not as large in the Nordic countries as in, for instance, the USA. Increasing globalization and political shifts have, however, likely led to changes in the debate and a greater acceptance for the pay differences. Building on empirical material from the debate in central newspapers, this paper tracks the historical and rhetorical trends in a particular Nordic country, Norway, and relates them to the idea of a “fully functional society” put forward by Heath (2006).

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CSR in Izmir

Really looking forward to visit Turkey this summer, as I will be presenting a keynote at the International Conference on Social Responsibility Education and Practices hosted by Yasar University in Izmir. In the call for papers, the conference aim is singled out as identifying the gaps and problems in present CSR systems and focusing on how CSR can be integrated into education and business to further sustainable development.

This promises to be a true cross-disciplinary event as Duygu Türker from the Department of Business Administration is joined by organizers from the Department of Transportation Services, the Department of Public Relations and Advertising, as well as the Department of International Relations. I will be doing my usual song and dance routine about the importance of communication for CSR.

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An upper hand

As many disciplines seek to understand corporate social responsibility (CSR), the role of communication has been relatively underexplored despite its prevalence in demonstrating and shaping social responsibility positions and practice. Together with Steve May and Jennifer Bartlett, I have singled out four aces we can play. Communication studies alert us to (1) how meaning is constructed through communication, something that has implications for the management of organizations as publics hold different views of CSR and expect different things from them; (2) how a dialogue between an organization and its publics should unfold; (3) how practices of transparency can assist organizations to come across as trustworthy actors; and, importantly, (4) how a complexity view is fruitful to grasp the CSR communication process. These four key themes could be instructive for practitioners who want to argue for and demonstrate the usefulness of strategic communication for the management of CSR and bridge meso and macro levels of analysis. These ideas are fleshed out in a new book chapter called “Four aces: Bringing communication perspectives to corporate social responsibility” that has been published in Ralph Tench, William Sun, Brian Jones (ed.) Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice (Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Volume 6).

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