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School of Business | Department of Management and International Business | International Business | 2011
Thesis number: 12664
CSR discourse in corporate reports - Exploring the socially constructed nature of corporate social responsibility
Author: Itänen, Miia-Emilia
Title: CSR discourse in corporate reports - Exploring the socially constructed nature of corporate social responsibility
Year: 2011  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management and International Business
Academic subject: International Business
Index terms: kansainväliset yhtiöt; international companies; yhteiskunta; society; keskustelu; discussion
Pages: 153
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Key terms: International companies; Corporate Social Responsibility; CSR; discourse; Multinational Corporation; MNC; social construction; qualitative analysis; Kansainväliset yritykset; yhteiskuntavastuu; diskurssi; monikansallinen yritys; sosiaalinen rakennelma; laadullinen analyysi
Objective of the Research

The objective of this research is to increase understanding on the contemporary Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) discourse from the perspective of multinational corporations (MNCs) operating in the global business environment. The research seeks to contribute to CSR research by analysing the socio-cultural construction of CSR in terms of the social responsibilities of MNCs and their role in the society. This is done by analysing how companies shape and participate in the CSR discourse through their reports and by examining how the corporations construct subject positions for themselves in relation to the society. The aim is thus to understand how companies contribute to the culturally shared understanding of CSR by legitimating and naturalising certain ways of perceiving the corporate social reality.


The empirical materials used for the research consist of CSR reports from 10 Western European MNCs. The methodological approach adopted builds on a cultural, interpretive approach to qualitative analysis. The approach draws from discourse analysis and tools of textual criticism and analysis of the systems, relationships, and structures involved in the construction of meaning. The reports are analysed as cultural texts that are constructed with socio-cultural practices, embedded in a framework of discourse, knowledge and power. The analysis is carried out through close reading of the texts, focusing on how the concept of CSR is constructed and presented in the reports by analysing the discursive strategies and practices employed in the reports.

Findings and Conclusions

In the texts studied, three dominant streams of discourse were observed: The first one, “business discourse” relates CSR to profitable business and strategic management. The discourse emphasises the business case and business justification for CSR activities, framing CSR as a tool contributing to growth, profitability, and competitiveness of the corporation. The second stream, “caring discourse” constructs companies as humane, “caring” entities embedded in the societies in which they operate. The corporation that emerges from the caring discourse is an active and engaged actor seeking to contribute constructively to the development of the society. The corporations are positioned as drivers and enablers of change in the society. Finally, “sharing discourse” frames CSR as a joint initiative that requires participation of a range of different social actors. This stream draws from themes such as collaboration, working together, and encouraging others to act to advance common goals and to address global challenges. The corporations are portrayed as seeking engagement and encouraging broader, constructive participation in collaborative efforts involving different stakeholders. Sharing discourse embeds the corporation in the society and constructs the corporation as an active participant working towards mutually shared goals and joint interests.
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