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School of Business | Department of Communication | International Business Communication | 2011
Thesis number: 12774
Says who? Stakeholder voices in CSR reports - A genre approach
Author: Östman, Nina
Title: Says who? Stakeholder voices in CSR reports - A genre approach
Year: 2011  Language: eng
Department: Department of Communication
Academic subject: International Business Communication
Index terms: yritysviestintä; business communication; kansainvälinen; international; raportit; reports; yhteiskuntavastuu; corporate responsibility
Pages: 106
Full text:
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Key terms: Corporate social responsibility; stakeholder voices; stakeholder participation; stakeholder dialogue; CSR reporting; co-created insights; international business communication
Says who? Stakeholder voices in CSR reports – A genre approach?

Objective of the Study The objective of the thesis was to investigate stakeholder voices in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports and examine if, how and why companies include comments, statements or questions by stakeholders in the CSR reports. The study explored the phenomenon of stakeholder participation through the following research questions: (1) “Is stakeholder participation a distinctive feature in CSR reports?”; (2) “How is stakeholder participation structured in CSR reports”; and (3) “What is the communicative purpose of stakeholder participation in CSR reports?”.

Methodology and Theoretical Framework The data in the qualitative study consisted of ten CSR reports published by large, international companies, questionnaire responses from three companies, and short unstructured interviews with two communications consultancy experts in CSR communications. The data were analysed through a genre approach. The theoretical framework of the study was formed on the basis of a literature review and it focused on stakeholder dialogue as a basis for co-created insights regarding CSR issues.

Findings and Conclusions The study indicates that stakeholder participation is an internationally recurring feature in CSR reports. The key communicative purposes identified in the study were to add credibility, to open up for discussion about the company’s CSR activities, to establish the importance of stakeholders’ views and to improve the employer image. The study also shows that the commonly participating stakeholder groups are not the same as the main audience of the reports. Furthermore, this study showed that stakeholder participation elements consist of four main cognitive moves: (1) Including a headline; (2) Presenting the person; (3) Establishing a connection to the text(s) by the company; and (4) Conveying the views of the stakeholder. Finally, some recommendations for including stakeholder participation elements in CSR communications were given, and the danger of possible greenwashing through too positive statements was pointed out.

Key words Corporate social responsibility, stakeholder voices, stakeholder participation, stakeholder dialogue, CSR reporting, co-created insights, international business communication.
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