Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Communication


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Exploring European cross-national differences and tendencies

Taking pride in being a good company without being perceived as having an opportunistic purpose is anything but easy. We analyzed the practice of top European companies and asked experts’ opinions about risks and opportunities related to communicating CSR.

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Communication

  1. 1. CSR CSR Disclosure Communication Exploring European cross-national differences and tendencies Partnership with 1
  2. 2. A study developed by: In collaboration with: In partnership with: 2
  3. 3. Gonzalez del Valle Brena, Ph.D, Associate professor in advertising and public Foreword relations.; Belen Rodriquez Canova, Foreword research assistant for data collection ; Julia Emilia Sanchez, research assistant for data collection; Mabel Velazquez Taking pride in being a good companyassistant for sampling; Merlo, research without being jlkdsjflsjfdsjflksjfkdsjfksjf Ana Toledo, Ph.D, research assistant for perceived as having an opportunisticanalysis data purpose is anything but klsjdflksdlfjsdlkkkkkkkk easy. We analyzed the practice of top European companies From IULM University there are Emanuele kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk about risks and opportunities and asked experts’ opinions Invernizzi, Ph.D, Professor in corporate related to communicating CSR. communication and Stefania Romenti, kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk Ph.D, Assistant Professor in corporate kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk communication The role of CSR in management is more persistent today than ever before. Although many kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk From Judge Business School there is studies focus on how companies implement socially oriented principles and strategies, little kkkkkkk from the belief that the EuropeanStelios C. Zyglidopoulos, previous studies this study starts Strategy. perspective is lacking as Ph.D, Reader in work has focused on how the company’s social commitment is communicated. Therefore, have primarily analyzed Fortune 500 companies. What is the degree of social disclosure among topteam and Institutional partners (Research European companies? Are there cross-national differences or tendencies? Do Titolo 1 of the research European managers consider CSR communication as more of a risk or an opportunity? The project was lead by IE School of To date, the topic of this study has remained a work in progress because debate about Communication in collaboration with two what is an appropriate degree of social disclosure is far from being decided. The boundaries academic partners: IULM (Milan, Italy) and Judge Business School (U of Titolo 2 between engaging in and communicating CSR as well as marketing, corporate image, and CSR are not yet strictly defined. Nowadays, CSR communication is constantly changing and Cambridge, Uk). being redefined. As such, we hope that this study will inspire all those who want to have a Titolo 3 better IE School of Communicationpractice related to what is communicated and how. This From understanding of the current there work is also meant for all those who are endeavoring to know more about the opinions of are Laura Illia, Ph.D, Assistant professor in In rilievo experts and communication or CSR managers who deal with CSR communication on a Corporate and Business Communication daily basis. investigator); (Principal Almudena Laura Illia, Ph.D. Stefania Romenti, Ph.D. Stelios C. Zyglidopoulos, Ph.D. IE University IULM University of Cambridge 3
  4. 4. Research Team Laura Illia, PhD. Assistant Professor in Corporate and Business Communication IE School of Communication, IE University Stefania Romenti, Ph.D. Assistant Professor in Corporate Communication Fondazione Università IULM Stelios C. Zyglidopoulos, Ph.D. Lecturer in Strategy, Director of the Management Studies Tripos Director of Studies in Management and Fellow of Homerton College Judge Business School, University of Cambridge Almudena González del Valle Brena, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor in Advertising and Public Relations IE School of Communication, IE University Ana Toledo Chávarri, Ph.D. Research Assistant for data analysis and reporting IE University Belén Rodríquez Canova Research Assistant for data collection IE University Julia Emilia Sanchez Research Assistant for data collection IE University Mabel Velásquez Merlo Research Assistant for sampling IE University 4
  5. 5. Content Executive summary 6 1. Introduction 7 1.1. Starting point 8 1.2. Method 9 2. What is communicated 12 2.1. UK and South Europeans, the high disclosers! 13 2.2. CSR e-agenda setting: made in ES, IT and UK 20 2.3. Web 2.0 a South European experimentation 22 3. Opinions of who communicates 26 3.1. Engaging in or Communicating CSR: That’s the question! 27 3.2. The marketing risk of communicating CSR 31 3.3. Attitudes of public opinion and/or mass media 34 3.4. CSR communication for corporate image during corporate crisis 37 3.5. CSR advertising: a debated practice 40 3.6. CSR blogging: a question of character! 42 4. Final Conclusions 44 References 50 Annexes 52 Companies in the study 53 Codebook 56 5
  6. 6. Executive Summary This is true for all aspects we Project outline investigated. The boost to CSR has been underscored by the numerous studies on how - Many companies (again, especially from companies implement socially oriented the UK, Spain, Italy, and France) tend to principles and strategies. Management use their websites to set their agenda practices with regard to CSR have not yet on social issues. They care not only extensively analyzed how companies about social reporting or descriptive communicate their social commitment. informing about what the company The state of the research in this area is does, but also about being gatekeepers poor and addresses mainly the US reality. within the debate on social issues in our In order to understand current practices in society. As the interviews underscored, Europe, we investigated the top 251 this behavior is about building a public companies (in terms of highest revenues) culture of CSR. in 11 industries from six European Manager’s opinions countries—namely, Spain, France, - Managers do not fear the public opinion Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or mass media skepticism that CSR Denmark, and Italy. We analyzed what is communication has an opportunistic communicated using a content analysis of marketing purpose. Their point of view companies’ social reports (if available), is that, in the past, media were attentive CSR content within companies’ websites, only to CSR’s worst practices. Today, social advertising, and presence on web scandals easily spread, but so do good 2.0 related to CSR issues. We also practices as CSR communication is interviewed 69 communication or CSR starting to become known by media and managers within these same companies the general public, who seem to have about their opinions on risks and an increasing interest in such issues opportunities in communicating CSR. even when they relate to good news. What is communicated - The managers in the current study - Social reporting is still not an shared their opinions about how to institutionalized practice in Europe as it avoid risks in communicating CSR. is in the US as only one third of These opinions are summarized in 14 companies provide social or thematic guidelines in the study’s conclusion. reports to a large audience. Still, the - The variety and type of managers’ majority of companies (48%) provide opinions indicated that CSR CSR content in their annual reports. communication is a practice still be - The most often communicated social constantly redefined. issues relate to the environment, market - According to the managers, both orientation, and workplace climate processes—namely, engaging in and whereas community involvement, ethics communicating CSR—have their and governance, local economic complexities and risks. Those who development, and stakeholders’ consider engaging in CSR to be difficult inclusion are less often disclosed. believe that CSR is about changing the Human rights are rarely communicated. culture of an organization. Meanwhile, - The European tendency is that UK communicating CSR is perceived to be companies have the highest disclosure, difficult because of the complexity of followed by southern European fitting multiple stakeholders’ companies (Spain, Italy and France). expectations while providing a concise message that is credible. 6
  7. 7. 1 Introduction 7
  8. 8. 1.1. Starting point The fundamental idea embedded in corporate social responsibility (CSR) is that communications overstating companies’ social behaviors. Previous studies have analyzed the 1 corporations have an obligation to work disclosure of US companies (e.g., Guthrie, for social betterment (Frederick, 1978; & Parker, 1990), but little efforts have been Sethi, 1975; Carroll, 1979; Andrews, made to develop a non-US perspective on 1987) and thus should act responsibly CSR disclosure. Some studies studied UK, with stakeholders and ethically toward Australian or New Zeeland companies society (Holme and Watts, 2000). A key (Gray et al 1995, Hackston and Milne component of engaging in CSR is 1996, Deegan and Rankin 1999), but communicating CSR with an appropriate there is yet still not European perspective degree of social disclosure (Zéghal and on CSR communication. This creates an Ahmed, 1990). When companies interesting opportunity as previous studies communicate their CSR, they aim to (e.g., Tixier, 2003; Maignan and Ralston, provide information about the company’s 2002; Haniffa and Cooke, 2005) agree special behavior so as to legitimize the that differences exist between how CSR is company among its stakeholders (Deegan communicated by US and European and Rankin, 1999; Brown and Deegan, managers. European managers adopt a 1998; Hooghiemstra, 2000). “low-risk” attitude toward CSR communication compared to US Yet such communication can be anything managers as they believe that it is too but easy for two main reasons. First, it is risky to build a corporate image on CSR difficult to be informed on CSR as CSR activities, given that public opinion, media, actions cannot be readily verified (Carroll, and consumers see CSR disclosure as 1999; Schoenberger, 2000). It is easy to having an opportunistic marketing purpose be informed on a company’s behavior (Tixier, 2003). A recent study on through standards or codes of conduct, sustainability by Havas Media (2009) but it is quite complicated to be informed confirms this cross-national component of about outcomes of very long-term CSR. Worldwide, 64% of public opinion projects. Second, it is quite complicated to and consumers consider that most take pride in being a good company companies are socially or environmental without being seen as having an responsible for improving their image. This opportunistic purpose (Holme and Watts, opinion is stronger in countries like Spain 2000). A company’s authentic (72%) and France (70%) than in the US commitment to CSR can easily be (58%). Given these contextual differences, misunderstood as being a marketing our aim is to develop a European attempt. As such, companies ought to perspective on CSR disclosure. reflect upon what is the practice Specifically, we aim to scrutinize the nowadays. On one side it is important to following: know how to reach the right level of transparency; otherwise, CSR actions - What is the degree of social disclosure might be underestimated. On the other among top European companies? side, it is important to counteract stakeholders’ skepticism toward corporate 8
  9. 9. - - Do European managers consider CSR communication to be more of a risk or an opportunity? Are there cross-national differences or some countries, it was difficult to collect four top-ranked companies (according to revenues) within the oil and coke industry; in these cases, we selected an additional 1 tendencies? If so, can they be related company from another industry to have to managers’ opinions on risks? the same number of companies per country. With the exception of Denmark, The aim is explorative. The ultimate aim is where the number of companies was 41, not to test the idea of existing differences, we were able to select 42 companies for but rather to explore what happens at a all other countries. European level—that is, what is actually communicated and done in CSR, how, Data collection and analysis and why. First, we developed a content analysis to investigate what these companies actually 1.1. Method communicate. We analyzed companies’ We developed an investigation among the social reports (if available), CSR content top 251 companies headquartered in within companies’ websites, social seven European countries—namely, advertising, corporate CSR blogs, and Spain (ES), France (FR), Switzerland (CH), presence on web 2.0 related to CSR the United Kingdom (UK), Denmark (DK), issues. This analysis enabled us to answer and Italy (IT)—in order to include the following research questions: To what companies from Latin (ES, FR, IT) and degree do European companies disclose non-Latin (UK, CH, DK) European their CSR? Do cross-national differences countries. exist? Sample Next, we interviewed communication directors or CSR managers within these The sample of 251 companies (see same companies in order to gather their Annexes for a complete list) was built from opinions on the difficulty of and dangers in the ORBIS database. We selected communicating CSR. Our research companies according to their industry question at this stage was: Do managers belongingness and revenue in order to differ on how they see CSR avoid getting biased results (companies communication as a problematic task with low revenues might not communicate (risks and opportunities)? CSR due to their lack of resources). In total, we selected 42 companies per For the content analysis, we country—namely, four companies with the developed a codebook of approximately highest revenues in the following 11 90 variables (see Annexes). Five coders industries: financial services and banks; collected data on the 251 companies. An insurance; textile, retail, and fashion; gas, inter-coder reliability test was executed, water, and electricity; oil and coke; food, and for all coders the tests were beverage, and tobacco; chemicals and satisfactory since Cohen’s Kappa test pharmaceuticals; telecommunications; was higher than 0.70. The data analysis transport and automotive; retail and included the overall percentage of answer wholesale; and tourism and hospitality. In rate, the percentage of answer rate per 9
  10. 10. country and industry, and a chi square analysis to determine how significant differences per countries are. Elements we coded in our content analysis are: - - Corporate magazines on social issues; Third parties opinions (experts opinions on social issues in their 1 website); 1. Presence and accessibility of CSR - Hot links with opinion leaders or web site area formalized institutions (e.g. NGO) ; - Hot links with Independent news 2. Accessibility of Social or thematic or blogs; report in the corporate website - Multimedia content (e.g. web TV or videos on long term projects) on social issues); 3. Disclosure on 8 CSR issues: - Providing a RSS on social issues - Stakeholders’ involvement; - Community /discussion boards on - Workplace climate, CSR issues. - Community involvement; - Local economic development 7. Corporate blogs and Web 2.0 to - Environment, communicate social engagement - Market orientation, (facebook, linkedln, Myspace, you - Ethics, tube, secondlife, Friendster,) - Human right 8. Initiation of vlobalization or citizen 4. Disclosure of Cause Related advertising on social products: Marketing activities: - Users are invited to “build” virtually - Donate money on base of their product that is eco/social consumer purchase; oriented; - Donate money for urgent - Users generate multimedia matters (e.g. war, material spontaneously on earthquakes) company’s CSR engagement ; - social and ethical advertising, - Users are solicited by the - Get awards and public company to create company’s recognition in CSR. multimedia CSR material; - Users fortify a company’s CSR 5. Disclosure of CSR standards and official advertising campaign; Indexes :AA1000, ISO 140001, ISO - Users are paid by the company to 19001, SA8000, Carbon disclosure social product advertising project, FTSE 4, DJSI, OSHAS 18001, EMAS, GRI, ISAE 3000 Interviews were conducted online following a phone call to establish a 6. Use of web to set an e- agenda on connection with the interviewees. We social issues : developed an interview guideline that - Company’s editorial articles in includes both quantitative and qualitative their websites on social issues; questions. We asked interviewees to - Comments in their websites; indicate their agreement to six statements 10
  11. 11. (using a 5-point Likert scale) and reason of the agreement/disagreement. A qualitative “why” answer for each statement was compulsory. We were - - Skeptical nature of public opinion or mass media Risks of advertising with social 1 particularly interested in qualitatively dimension analyzing quotations from managers’ - Risks of using corporate blogs to opinions communicate CSR We asked mangers opinions on: - Difficulty to do vs difficulty to Five people built the list of contacts within communicate CSR the 251 companies. In total, we collected 69 interviews. - “Marketing” Risk to communicate CSR actions One coder analyzed the qualitative statement of managers in order to - Boomerang effect of embedding a develop a cluster pattern of similar corporate image around CSR during reasons regarding their specific opinions crisis related to CSR communication. 11
  12. 12. 2 What is communicated 12
  13. 13. 2.1. UK and South Europeans, the high disclosers! UK companies have the highest disclosure. South European companies follow this trend. Social reporting is still not a high 2 institutionalized practice in Europe Accessibility of CSR content The websites of Anglo-Saxon and south European companies give higher direct Social reporting access to CSR information than websites Thematic 30 * from companies originating in other areas. Overall 33 Report 48 Overall 73% of companies’ websites have a CSR dedicated area. CSR information is UK 74 69 provided in one click by 69% of UK Social Report companies, 57% of Spanish companies ES 33 67 and 54% of Italian and French companies. Differently, on the other hand, only 26% of FR 26 52 Swiss and 35% of Danish companies Annual report provide this direct access (χ²<.001). IT 26 includes 52 section on CSR Use of social reporting DK 15 41 Overall, 33% of companies provide online access to their social report, 30% to their CH 10 (χ ²<.001) 40 thematic report and 48 % include a section *no sig differences on CSR in their annual report. Compared 0 50 100 to other companies, Swiss and Danish companies score the lowest when providing online access to their social report (χ²<.001) and less CSR space in their annual reports (χ²<.001). No significant Industry differences differences were found concerning thematic The companies most providing a social reports. Environment, governance, report (χ²<.050) are within the Bank, citizenship and sustainable development Insurance and Gas, Water and Electricity are the most frequent themes of these industries. Besides, companies less reports. providing a CSR section in the annual Overall, 39% of companies inform about report (χ²<.050) are those from Textile, having a third party certification. Here again Retail and Fashion and UK companies are those most informing on Telecommunications. Finally, those this (67%), followed by French (52%), companies that most provide a thematic Spanish (45%) and Italian (40%) report (χ²<.005) are those from companies. Those companies that less insurance, food and beverage industries. inform about this aspect are Swiss (17%) and Danish (14%) companies (χ²<.001). 13
  14. 14. Issues being communicated Overall findings indicate that companies provide information on all issues. Most communicated issues are workplace climate and environment, while the least Overall Stakeholder involvement 63 2 60 communicated one is human rights. In Mission, vision, values general, UK companies inform more than UK 95 are put in others. Again, findings indicate that South 98 practice European companies follow UK’s tendency. every day ES 67 English and Spanish companies inform 69 more than others on their stakeholders’ involvement. In addition, they also inform IT 67 Mission, 64 vision, values more than others on their community are involvement, especially concerning their 52 developed FR by involving collaboration with local communities and 55 stakeholders their donations, sponsoring, foundations and events. Danish companies rate DK 49 44 particularly low in disclosing their internship (χ ²<.001). policies for young graduates. 31 CH 31 UK and Italian companies instead dominate the disclosure of two issues, which are, 0 50 100 market and ethics for governance. Italian companies are in particular concerned to inform on how they manage their Community involvement relationships with creditors and suppliers, 65 that is, on how they respect deals, Overall 47 66 Projects in standard of quality for production; also they local are concerned to inform on their ethical 98 community UK 83 conduct and what they do to prevent 95 corruption, money recycling and conflicts of 74 interests. ES 52 76 UK, Spanish and Italian companies inform Internships 68 IT 59 for young, comparatively more than others about their 68 graduates commitment to local economic 67 development, especially concerning the FR 62 creation of works and help for young 69 generations. Swiss companies inform 50 CH 21 Sponsoring, comparatively less about their role in 50 foundations, creating local work. Both Swiss and Danish events 33 companies rate particularly in how they DK 7 36 disclose their commitment for local project development. 0 50 100 14
  15. 15. Overall Market 66 65 70 66 93 R&D for social 2 98 products UK 100 95 74 IT 71 Security in 88 production and 88 distribution 74 ES 71 74 69 Caring about clients 67 FR 62 64 60 44 Respect deals, DK 51 standard of quality 56 54 for production 45 CH 33 38 31 0 20 40 60 80 100 Ethics and governance 65 Overall 37 53 98 UK 98 76 Ethical conduct 79 IT 26 64 57 ES 50 Equal Commerce 50 64 FR 24 50 Prevention corruption, 51 DK 17 money recycling, conflicts 46 of interest 40 CH 19 31 0 20 40 60 80 100 15
  16. 16. Local economic development 2 31 Overall 52 39 52 UK 90 Projects to increase 81 local economic 48 development IT 50 55 Help your 45 generation learning ES 52 50 36 FR 52 Create works 31 2 CH 40 5 5 DK 27 (χ ²<.001). 12 0 20 40 60 80 100 Environment 69 Overall 63 64 77 Pollution 95 UK 98 95 98 81 FR 81 Recycling 79 81 73 ES 73 66 76 Sensitize people 55 toward IT 52 environment 55 71 60 Sustainable DK 40 57 development 74 48 CH 36 33 62 0 20 40 60 80 100 16
  17. 17. Overall Work place climate 50 69 65 69 2 67 UK 98 98 98 50 FR 71 74 Benefices and salary 71 64 Training and career IT 71 developmen 67 69 Equal opportunites 57 ES 69 60 Work conditions 67 39 DK 54 46 60 21 CH 50 45 40 0 20 40 60 80 100 Human Rights 43 Overall 43 49 Infant work 57 UK 57 62 55 ES 55 55 Social exclusion , poverty, right to 50 instruction, nutrition, FR 50 62 freedom 40 CH 38 Respect of 33 international 32 agreement human DK 24 right 46 26 IT 31 33 0 20 40 60 80 100 17
  18. 18. UK and French companies are those that more disclose on issues related to environment. Though being comparatively less disclosing, more than 50% of CH and DK companies inform on their 50% of companies denote a disclosure on it). Comparatively speaking, Swiss companies rate particularily low in their disclosure on benefices and salaries 2 commitment to sustainable development, Finally, it is interesting to note that Italian pollution and environment. This is notable companies rate particularly low in their since on other issues this rate is below communication on human right related 50%. issues, even less than Swiss and Danish companies. In general human right is the Work place climate is another issue on issue that is less communicated overall: it which UK, French and Italian companies is the only issue that rates lower than in inform comparatevely more than others. 50% for all companies. As for the topic environment, Danish and Swiss companies reveal a higher disclosure than for other issues (around Industry differences Not surprisingly the Bank industry reveals to be most disclosing than other industries on all issues we analyzed. This tendency is followed by companies in the Gas, Water and Electricity industry that are disclosing in many of these issues. Companies that appear to be more frequently as having limited communication on many CSR issues belong to Tourism, Textile, retail and fashion and oil and coke industries. These results are significant from χ²<.050 or χ²<.005. Cause related marketing Overall only 11% of companies communicate to provide a donation on the DIsclosure on Cause Related marketing base of consumers purchase, 18% inform on their social advertising campaign, 27% 11 overall 18 Donate inform on the amount of money they 27 money on 49 donate for urgent matters such as war and consumer UK 14 purchase earthquakes, and 49% of companies inform 38 79 on received award for their CSR Social engagement. ES 31 advertising 38 74 UK and Spanish companies have similar FR 29 26 Donate degree of disclosure on Cause Related 48 money for Marketing activities (χ²<.001). Specifically 17 urgent IT 33 they tend to have the same degree of 43 matters disclosure about their special donations for CH 10 17 urgent issues (e.g. war, earthquakes) and 21 (χ ²<.001) about awards and public recognition received on CSR. DK 5 *no sig 7 29 differences Compared to other companies, Spanish 0 50 100 18
  19. 19. and French companies inform more on their social advertising campaigns. Either they provide the social campaign online, or a direct link to it. Industry differences Companies within the food, beverage and tobacco industry are those that most communicate on their social 2 Standards and Indexes advertising. Banks, telecommunication The standard that is most communicated is companies, gas water and electricity the ISO 14001 (environmental companies, chemicals and management), that is communicated by pharmaceutical companies follow this 47% of scrutinized companies. ISO 19001 tendency. These results are significant (quality of management system) is from χ²<.050 or χ²<.005. communicated by 19% of companies; AA1000 (multi-stakeholder consultation for accountability, responsibility, sustainability) Standards is communicated by 17% of it; and OSHAS 18001 (health a security at work) is 42 overall 36 Global communicated by 14% of companies. Only 17 Compact 47 7% of analyzed companies certify that their reporting follows the GRI standard 52 UK 50 reporting, and only 5 % of them certify to 48 48 GRI (reporting) have the ISAE 3000 standard reporting. 48 Only 6% inform on their adherence to the SP 48 26 Carbon disclosure project. Only 1% on 74 EMAS (eco management audit scheme) 62 AA1000 (multi- FR 5 40 stakeholder We found significant differences between 60 consultation) how companies inform on their standards 31 IT 29 only in AA1000, ISO 14001 and GRI and 17 45 ISO 14001 their adherence to global compact (environmental 24 management) principles. Companies that most CH 26 0 communicate about having an ISO 14001 26 are from Spain and France followed by UK 36 (χ²<.001). On the other hand, standard DK 5 22 32 AA1000 is reported instead in particular by UK companies (χ²<.001), while GRI 0 50 100 reporting standard is provided especially by Spanish and UK companies (χ²<.050). In particular French English and Spanish companies disclose on their adherence to global compact principles Industry differences Companies that are particularly disclosing on following the GRI reporting standard are those from Bank and Gas, water and electricity industries (χ²<.050). Companies that notably inform on their adherence to ISO 14001 are Banks, Gas, water, electricity and Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals companies (χ²<.050). Finally companies informing on OSHAS 18001 are those from gas, electricity and Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals companies (χ²<.050). 19
  20. 20. 2.2. CSR e-agenda setting: made in ES, IT and UK Companies tend to turn their website into an online newspaper 2 to inform not only on their CSR commitment, but also on social issues in general. Spanish, British and Italian companies rate particularly high in this respect. Overall findings 52% of companies use their website to projects); 14% of companies provide hot set an agenda on CSR issues they are links with independent open sources or committed to. 34% of companies provide blogs. hot links with opinion leaders or formalized institutions (such as nonprofit Only 10% of companies provide RSS on organizations - NGO’s). 29% of them post CSR issues and corporate magazine comments on news about CSR they are content on social issues. Besides, only committed with. 26% of companies 9% of companies’ posts editorial articles publish multimedia content on social in their websites. 8% of companies issues (e.g. corporate CSR TV, videos provide third parties expert opinions in documenting on their CSR long term their website. Use of web site to set agenda Setting an agenda (according to items below) 52 Hot links with op. leaders or NGO 34 Comments in their websites 29 Multimedia content on social issues 26 Company’s editorial articles in their websites 19 Hot links with Independent news or blogs 14 Providing a RSS on CSR issues 10 Magazine content on social issues 10 Third parties opinions (e.g. experts opinions ) 8 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 20
  21. 21. Comments, editorials, links We found significant differences per country only for some elements. UK and Spanish companies are particularly Opinionists websites 2 Overall 19 disclosing their CSR through companies 29 editorial articles on social issues (χ²<.005) 29 UK and comments about recent events and 57 Companies trends of social issues (χ²<.001). Italian editorial ES 36 articles on and UK companies are those that most 36 social issues inform on CSR by providing hot links with IT 17 opinion leaders and formalized institutions 24 Comments such as NGO (χ²<.005). on their FR 14 websites 21 Italian and Spanish companies are those that most inform on their CSR by providing 2 DK 32 links to independent news sources or blogs. Thus, these are those companies CH 5 14 that most link their social engagement to (χ ²<.001) blogging and open source journalism (χ ²<.050). 0 50 100 Swiss and Danish companies are notable for not including in their communication hot links and opinions on current events of Hot links CSR. Overall 14 34 Hot links with Independent Industry differences UK 14 60 news or blogs Companies within Gas, water and IT 24 electricity industry are those that most 38 disclose their commitment to CSR by ES 24 providing hot links with independent 29 Hot links with opinion leaders news or blogs (χ²<.005), multimedia 17 or formalized FR 29 content (χ²<.050). Together with food institutions and tobacco companies they are also CH 2 (e.g. NGO) 24 those companies that most provide 5 (χ ²<.005) community discussion boards on social DK 24 (χ ²<.050) issues (χ²<.050) 0 50 100 21
  22. 22. 2.3. Web 2.0: a South European experimentation CSR communication through web 2.0 is in its early stages. Spanish, italian and french companies are those that most 2 experiment. CSR Corporate Blogs Overall, only the 5% of companies have companies which experiment this new corporate blogs on CSR issues. We were type of CSR communication. Hereafter able to document examples in particular are presented some examples. from Spanish Italian and French Italian companies Telecom Italia has a blog called “A voi comunicare” (you communicate) where people -famous or less famous- take a position toward issues related to ecology, health, etc. It is a space where interview- videos are posted. Some are professional produced by bloggers of “a voi comunicare”, others are not. People can also post their point of view on social issues. Political and environmental issues are particularly discussed in this blog. Users highly participate in this blog. Benetton group has a blog called “Benetton Talk” where the company invites users to “tell us things we should think about today”. People upload pictures, video, comments on topics they find important for our society. In this blog users post mainly things related to art and creativity: some interesting pictures and inventions from users are uploaded. This is in line with Benetton engagement toward young generations and their development of creativity. Users highly participate in this blog. 22
  23. 23. Autogrill has a blog called “on the Move” where people can read and discuss themes and issues that shape day to life in Autogrill: consumer culture, food, beverage, travel, transports, companies, etc. People post 2 videos, comments. Users highly participate in this blog. Fiat Group has a blog space within the website “Sustainability: be guided by the future” in which they permit users to rate sustainability projects the company is investing or will invest in. Spanish companies BBVA has a blog called “open talent”, where people can post their entrepreneurship projects, comment on projects. BBVA blog aims to provide funding opportunities to young entrepreneurs, who will be selected by BBVA to fun their projects. Many projects are posted by users. Mapfre has a blog called “circula seguro” opened by Fundacion Mapfre and Michelin. The aim of the blog is to inform of security when driving. People can post questions, comments and reflections on how to drive with security. Many questions and comments are posted 23
  24. 24. La Caixa has a blog called “el blog de la Caixa” where are posted a wide number of news about the company, were people can post their comments. At least each three news there are posts on the company’s 2 and its foundations’ commitment to social issues. Caja Madrid has a blog called “Red de blogs obra social Caja Madrid . Its aim is to bring people do discuss about issues that are relevant in our society. Telefonica has a blog called “red de Catedras Telefonica”, a platform that aims to improve the communication between Telefonica and a number of universities in Spain so to analyze the impact of technologies on society. Themes debated are plural: climate change, education, health, security, social media, web, new technologies, etc. French companies BNP Paribas has a blog called “for a changing world” where employees, partners and users of the web can exchange their point of view on sustainable initiatives. The blog includes a wide range of comments on many issues, from culture, diversity, education, solidarity, health, etc. Danone has a blog called “pied sur terre” that aims to make users discussion issues of sustainability in our society. Through the blog the company directly informs on the corporate commitment to CSR. 24
  25. 25. Caisse d’Epargne has a blog called “Bénéfices Futur” where the company informs users on sustainability projects that 2 are put forward by the company. Users can post comments. Use of social network Overall, only 14 % of companies use social network to disclose their CSR. They use Disclosure CSR through social networks one or more of the following social networks. Overall 14 8 % of companies under scrutiny use you Youtube 8 tube. To provide videos of their social facebook 4 projects, especially long term ones. linkedln 4 Flickr 3 Though a high number of companies have a profile in Facebook and LinkedIn myspace 2 (companies mainly use it for internal or secondlife 1 employer branding purposes), only 4% use Friendster 0 these social networks specifically to disclose their CSR. The majority of them 0 50 100 are from Spain and Italy (χ ²<.050). What these companies do is to promote their internship programs for young Disclosure though Facebook & generations (for example Union Fenosa and LinkedIn Sodexo, BBVA). Also, they promote their foundations, specific projects or blogs (e.g. Overal 4 l 4 Telecom Italia, Benetton). Some of them ES 12 also diffuse their sustainability report (e.g. 12 Fiat) through Facebook and LinkedIn. IT 10 7 In 3% of cases we found out that web users 2 Facebook UK 2 fortify a company’s CSR online campaign linkedln with spontaneous advertising or users are FR 2 0 solicited by the company to create a 0 DK 0 company’s multimedia CSR campaign. In 2% of cases users are invited to develop games CH 0 0 or plays around CSR issues, and in 1% of cases users are invited by the company to 0 50 100 “build” virtually their CSR products (e.g eco- oriented) 25
  26. 26. 3 Opinions of who communicates 26
  27. 27. 3.1. Engaging in or communicating CSR: That’s the question! Is it more difficult engaging in or communicating CSR? Managers find that both 3 processes have their complexities and risks. Risks can be avoided easily with a reliable communication based on prudence and balance, rigor and transparency and by getting to know the media and the audience and stakeholders. Communicating is easier than engaging in - “Communicating actions is easy. The true challenge lies in the development of these actions” (Spain) - “Well planned CSR activities communicate their meaning by themselves “(Italy) Communicating is more difficult than engaging in - “Doing CSR is just following our values. Communicating could be a bit tricky - we do not want to brag” (Denmark). - “We face a problem when communicating CSR: lack of credibility” (Spain). - “It is difficult to convey the key messages and data in a concise, simple way” (UK). - “There are many different expectations from stakeholders” (Switzerland). - “Effective and credible communication covers areas where the company has performed badly, or which are far more complex than is publicly understood” (UK). - “It is really difficult to communicate CSR engagement, without the action being perceived by the public as marketing” (Spain). Why is engaging in CSR changing the culture of an organization, about finding new ways of working, about difficult? considering more than the financial bottom line. All of this is a major challenge Communicating CRS is seen as an easier to any organization”. task than engaging in it by some of the respondent organizations, who indicated Thus, CSR is central in companies’ that “what is difficult is implementing business strategy and implies facing the responsible policies. Once they are global industry context as well as its implemented, communicating them is fundamental issues. One Danish company easy” (Italy) and “well planned CSR understood CSR as “much, much more activities communicate their meaning by than communication. Actually, we view it themselves” (Italy). more as an internal change management tool or even business development, which Yet implementing CSR is an immense takes into consideration the conditions task. It requires the mobilization of “the that the business is now facing (climate whole organization” (Spain) and the change, outsourcing, demanding transformation of the working processes stakeholders, etc.)”. in day-to-day activities. As one UK company stated, doing “CSR is about 27
  28. 28. Changing processes involved in the CSR requires working with different units and individuals as it must be implemented and understood across the company “from the bottom levels up to the managerial (Spain). Communicating CSR provides vital implications for firms. Results can be important improvements, but a lot of possible risks are also possible. As one Italian company put it, “knowing how to 3 level” (Italy). Size and location(s) of the communicate CSR in an effective way company need to be taken into account. within the company and with our own For one Danish company, “implementing stakeholders is key, not only to CSR principles and strategies in a large success but also for the company itself. organization with more than 22,000 The company may find a competitive employees in 14 countries is a much advantage and good relations”. bigger challenge than communicating about what we do and why”. Firms can encounter difficulties in communicating CSR, such as identifying Some managers pointed out the technical what it means to engage in CSR. “Often complexity of implementing CSR. The an organization is involved in aspects of processes require a lot of planning, CSR and for us this is often just running a commitment, and time. It has “longitudinal well-managed business. To communicate and multidisciplinary characteristics” effectively the organization must define (Spain), and “a serious performance in what CSR is for itself and communicate CSR requires a real engagement over this both internal and externally” (UK). Yet time” (France). Moreover, CSR involves some of the respondents identified more not only intra-organizational elements, but technical difficulties in communicating in also external ones. As one Danish an effective and credible way. company stated, “doing CSR properly will “Communicating CSR is more complex, often also mean engaging both internal as it involves far more shades of grey. and external stakeholders in the process.” Effective and credible communication covers areas where the company has The following quotation summarizes the performed badly, or which are far more opinion of those who find engaging in complex than is publicly understood. This CSR more difficult than communicating it: requires more skill and subtlety than is “Putting in place the necessary needed for simply carrying out social commitment, framework, processes, and investment projects or measuring the KPIs to measure and continuously make socio-economic status of a local progress is a difficult task. Once all of this community, as it is a unique task each is set, then it becomes easy to time” (UK). communicate CSR activities” (Switzerland). Expected audiences also transform the way in which companies manage CSR Why is communicating CSR disclosure. If communication is addressed to the general public, the challenge seems difficult? to be finding key and clear messages and “Communicating CSR is very important putting them in a “simple way that people because it's a way of getting optimal are prepared to read” (UK) because results in CSR: growth in reputation and “social and economic tissue, at least in brand value. Therefore, communication Italy, still remains immature regarding costs and interest are not discussed” these issues” (Italy). In measuring the risk 28
  29. 29. of public perception, one Danish company focuses “more on educating the industry and our clients around CSR issues than communicating about our own initiatives.” development, but clearness could also be misinterpreted” (Denmark). Companies can risk their credibility if the messages are not balanced: “we face a 3 However, the audience can also be seen problem when communicating CSR: a in a more complex way, as indicated by lack of credibility. There is still a several different agents. “There are many perception that what gets communicated different expectations from stakeholders. is smoke and mirrors” (Spain). The main What is compelling for one audience is problem stated in this sense is that CSR insufficient for another. Getting the can be misunderstood for social balance between KPIs (and choosing marketing or interpreted as green which KPIs) and stories is a perennial washing: “a company is not always challenge. The raw material is not difficult legitimated to communicate its own CSR to find; describing it in a way that meets actions. Its stakeholders may become the expectations of external observers is suspicious, may accuse the company of more challenging” (Switzerland). The green-washing” (France). different possible channels for communicating CSR also imply Understanding the challenges. Achieving a wide audience relationship between can be quite competitive as firms contend with other "interesting news and stories in engaging in and the public domain” (Denmark). communicating CSR In this sense, the main perceived risk Taking into consideration all of the comes from the relationship with media. previously stated challenges, it can be “When communicating CSR, the concluded that the way in which CSR— company always depends on third and the relationship between parties” (Spain), and these parties do not communicating and engaging in it—is always share the same objectives. “Many understood varies from company to companies perceive it as a risk to company and from manager to manager. communicate about CSR and hesitate to Therefore, some firms understand CSR as do so because they know that the media a communications-driven function: will search for negative stories” (Denmark). “invariably the communication of the CSR approach and achievement will drive the For one Danish company, “CSR is all doing of CSR” (UK). Yet others view it as about walking the talk and talking the an integrated part of their foundations and walk. It is what you do that matters. The values, so they “see no need to difficult part is giving the receiving end of communicate it” (Denmark). your communication the correct picture. Neither too much nor too little.” As was In addition, the boundaries between previously indicated, choosing the KPI to action and disclosure are not firmly be transmitted is problematic: “doing CSR defined. For some of the respondents’ is just following our values, managers, the relationship seemed clear: communicating could be a bit tricky, we “if you act fundamentally social do not want to brag, only being open and responsible, you can communicate easily, clear in our reporting, telling about our transparently, and credibly” (Switzerland); “Isn't it obvious? You should only 29
  30. 30. communicate what you are doing” (Switzerland); and “doing CSR is a natural part of our morale in Denmark” (Denmark). Yet the disclosure of CSR is suspicious esp. support from the top) and across functions; and implicit in this is the extent to which it is a priority to the core business. Communicating CSR also has its challenges. The question doesn't 3 even within the profession. One manager specify whether CSR is communicated stated that, “making statements or accurately (or indeed whether it's done communicating is not enough. Very often, effectively), which is important to establish unclear or blurred initiatives are hidden in terms of the ease of communication behind elegant communication activities” since the proliferation of CSR related (Italy). Another believed “that we often find articles and associated claims of 'green statements of purposes, which do not wash' may suggest that in fact it's all too correspond to actual achievements within easy to 'communicate CSR'. This also the company, rather than the contrary” relates to the knowledge and (Italy). understanding of those communicating One respondent synthesized CSR as the messages and, linking back to the such: “The practice of CSR and the ease ease or difficulty of doing CSR whether of 'doing CSR' in my understanding varies there is, in fact, anything to communicate” from company to company and most (UK). likely by sector and country. In a company scenario, it depends on the support of those at every level of the business (but 30
  31. 31. 3.2. The “marketing” risk of communicating CSR We asked managers to tell us if communicating CSR has the risk of being accused of doing marketing while communicating CSR. Overall, managers perceive this risk mainly 3 when communication does not respond fairly to what is being done. It is not risky or it is easy to overcome - If real and measurable facts support communication, then the company can easily and at any moment demonstrate whatever has been said (Italy). - A reliable communication should not mean risks. On the contrary, it should mean an opportunity to increase profile (Spain). - CSR communication is right and proper because it helps share experiences and creates awareness in the public (Italy). When it is perceived as risky, what are the risks? - For a UK firm, “risk is present for the following reasons: - If the communication is not aligned to what the business is actually doing, communicating can also attract further scrutiny - if the organisation has not addressed the large CR issues relating to its core business activities - If CR is overly communicated in relation to a specific product or brand where it is not appropriate” (UK). Overcoming the risk - By being prudent in your own communication you can handle this risk (Denmark). - With robust stakeholder engagement and a sophisticated credibility driven approach to CSR communications, risks are managed and mitigated ( UK). There is no risk or it is easy the company’s real commitment in terms of resources and organizational structures to overcome involved” (Italy). “A reliable communication should not mean risks. On the contrary, it Some companies stated that “there are should mean an opportunity to increase no risks involved” in communicating CSR the profile, win trust, and motivate and actions (Spain and Italy). If CRS is “aligned drive others to do the same” (Spain). with the business strategy” (Switzerland) or if it “is effectively integrated into the Communicating CSR can also provide the business model, the debate about image opportunity for public engagement. “CSR green washing gets easily overcome” communication is useful because it (Spain). Similarly, another respondent provides the company with the fair image. added that, “if real and measurable facts It is also right and proper because it helps support communication, then the share experiences and creates awareness company can easily and at any moment in the public” (Italy). Indeed, “only when demonstrate whatever has been said” the company communicates its own (Italy). Therefore, communication can be engagement is it possible to get the other seen as an opportunity “to demonstrate actors’ commitment over the targeted 31
  32. 32. objectives and share actual results” (Italy). Communication CSR “helps to build up culture over these issues” (Italy). When it is perceived as risky, Overcoming the risk One UK Company explained how to avoid risk. “Following some very simple rules should prevent accusations of green washing. These could be summarized as 3 what are the risks? follows: Nevertheless, some companies consider - Address your big issues head on; don't that the risk of being perceived as shy away from your material issues marketing is always present (Denmark), because they are difficult. particularly if communication does not respond fairly to what is being done. - Be honest and balanced in your “Communication must go hand in hand communications, not just the good with an effective implementation of news stories. everything being stated” (Italy). As one manager stated, “evidently, if little is done - Respond to what your stakeholders are (or barely anything, or even something asking for; if you communicate what wrong) a lot of communication becomes people are interested in, it is more risky” (Spain). difficult to be accused of green washing and PR” (UK). For one UK firm, “risk is present for the following reasons: Prudence, balance, are focus were identified as ways of dismantling risks. “By - If the communication is not aligned to being prudent in your own communication what the business is actually doing, you can handle this risk” (Denmark). The communicating can also attract further accusation of simply engaging in scrutiny marketing “is only likely if the - if the organization has not addressed communication is not balanced (e.g., only the large CSR issues relating to its core good news) or focuses on issues that the business activities reader does not recognize as being significant to the business” (UK). Some - If CSR is overly communicated in managers consider it necessary to relation to a specific product or brand communicate the bad news as well: “The where it is not appropriate” (UK). most important thing is not to make a The damage to the organization’s picture perfect!” (Denmark). reputation, credibility, or coherence could be bigger if companies are “caught in Responses differed in regard to reducing saying but not doing,” which could appointed risk related to the audience and damage “the company’s authenticity, and media. Some respondents pointed out thereby the consumers’ perception of the that communicating through media company as real and trustworthy” perceived as green washing can only be (Denmark) or if “there is something dirty in prevented with “rigor and transparency of the backstage, and then communication CSR” (Spain). Others asserted that the is used to wash away the guilt” (Italy). media can be useful for CSR disclosure as “it is better to have one's activities communicated by a third party to enhance credibility. External verification and demonstration of stakeholder 32
  33. 33. engagement can be helpful in allaying doubts” (Switzerland). Risk also depends on the stakeholders’ involvement in communication CSR, and strictly clear. Sometimes this confusion can be integrated into the organization’s structure, but “it is crucial that the responsibility of CSR not be placed in the marketing department or with non-CSR 3 internal and external audiences need to professionals” (Denmark). CSR can be considered separately. “Media are become “exclusively a marketing plan [if] more interested in the bad news, rather the company does not really integrate than the good news often seen as green social responsibility within their policies washing” (Switzerland). In addition, “it is and processes” (Spain). Even if “CSR is often challenging to convince internal not suitable for general marketing stakeholders of the need for transparency, purposes, [it] can indirectly benefit that rather than PR” (UK). effort” (Denmark). Understanding this difference is essential Communicating CSR can also be for managing risk. “With robust understood as marketing as “some stakeholder engagement and a companies conduct a type of sophisticated credibility-driven approach communication that might be qualified as to CSR communications, risks are social marketing [whose] objective is to managed and mitigated. Companies that get market approval or the media understand what works with different approval of a particular group” (Spain). audiences will be able to craft compelling communications strategies that provide a Some managers indicated that they mixture of hard data, credible visions “already [see] evidence for the claims of backed by performance indicators green washing” (UK), such as when firms (NGOs), and compelling case studies (civil use “a form of communication where the society/ customers)” (UK). form wins over content” (France). But they warned that “CSR actions solely designed Relationship between for marketing purposes get the truth out” (Italy). communication and marketing In any case, the boundaries between communicating and marketing are not 33
  34. 34. 3.3. Attitudes of public opinion and/or mass media We asked manager’s opinions on weather public opinion and/or mass media are skeptical toward those companies who inform about their CSR actions. Most of the 3 managers do not see this scepticism in media and public opinion at least for that companies committed to communicating their actually implemented CSR action. Public interest for these actions has been growing lately. Other respondents perceive that more transparency is requested due to past scandals. The majority of respondents do not see such scepticism - Mass media offer a favourable treatment to companies that inform about their policies and activities in the realm of CSR (Spain). - Actually, many actions are well understood (Italy). Those who see scepticism state - Business credibility is affected by numerous corporate scandals (Spain). - They should be. It is a part of having a critical judgement of the information you receive (Denmark). It depends... - On company’s reputation (Italy) and credibility (Denmark; Switzerland). - This depends on the industry in which your company is active (Switzerland) Are public opinion and/or These managers further pointed out that media are suspicious only of those mass media skeptical? companies that focus on communication Most manager respondents did not think rather than the CSR action. As previously that public opinion and mass media are indicated, if communication is carried out skeptical toward those companies who in a responsible and truthful way, “it may provide information about their CSR deliver a high level of trust” (Spain). In the actions. These managers very positively same sense, one manager stated that, “if perceived the relationship with media and the company develops serious CSR public opinion. One manager from Italy planning and reporting, public opinion will stated that, “I believe that public opinion is then be interested in understanding and nevertheless stricken favorably towards consolidate a reliable relationship with the those who communicate their company” (Italy). According to a Swiss commitment in this subject”; another company “campaigning is negative, but manager said, “mass media offer a basic communication work, for instance in favorable treatment to companies that presentations or in a chapter in a report of inform [the public] about their policies and the company, is positive.” So the activities in the realm of CSR” (Spain). skepticism “depends really on behavior that is not CSR oriented” (Italy). 34
  35. 35. “Actually, many actions are well understood” (Italy) as “nowadays, there is fairly widespread knowledge of these subjects within media and among opinion leaders" (Italy). The public is also assumed information on the report, because an independent party is in charge of validating all the information” (Spain). The last possibility is to see media and 3 to be interested and even “asks for more public opinion as “indifferent” and “more information about CSR actions” (Italy). than skeptical” (Italy). If companies can Indeed, something has changed in the profit from some interest, trust can be past few years regarding media built. “When one does have the perception of and interest in CSR. “There opportunity to engage and explain one's has been growing interest in CSR actions sensibly, rather than in sound activities and performance over the last bites, the reaction from both the public few years, particularly from the media” and media is usually very positive. If you (UK). “Media have evolved, they have have enough of their attention, you can assimilated CSR concepts. Therefore, it’s explain convincingly” (Switzerland). possible to believe that media appreciate companies supporting transparency” It depends... (Spain). Public opinion and/or mass media depends on the company’s reputation Yet another group of respondents (Italy) and credibility (Denmark; perceived the media as skeptical and Switzerland), which can be related to the considered that "suspicion is logical when company’s previous performance. “There they perceive an unfair leap between what is an inherent danger that reports from is actually performed and what gets companies that have faced public communicated; when the focus is just criticism are faced with skepticism. advertising, without the balance needed” However, a good quality report will accept (Spain). “All our experience shows that that they have performed badly in the more transparency is requested by a wide past, and will explain what the company is range of stakeholders” (Switzerland). The doing to improve on this poor reasons for such suspicion stem from performance” (UK). past experiences as “business credibility is affected by numerous corporate Different perceptions are also based on scandals” (Spain). “Probably because in the sector (Switzerland). Industries’ the early days of CSR some companies reputation can vary significantly. For have been less focused on CSR and more example, “in telecoms there is less focused on image building” (Denmark). skepticism about the core nature of the business than there may be in the In other words, journalists are supposed tobacco or airline industries reporting on to be critical (Denmark). “They should be. CSR” (UK). As one manager put it, “large It is a part of having critical judgments of corporations and the traditional 'sin' the information you receive” (Denmark). industries such as tobacco, big business This can be “both understandable and and specific sector of industry have stimulating. Public opinion and media will reputational issue. This is driven by large welcome [it] if the form and content of scandals, the media, and also arts and communication are good, and if the culture. I consider this in light of films such recounted facts are real and verifiable” as The Whistleblower, Syrianna, Michael (France). “This gives more credibility to the 35
  36. 36. Clayton, The Constant Gardener, etc." (UK). The nature of the products and production were also indicated as a In certain circumstances, strategic planning can impeach CSR communication, “as was the case during a gap in reporting when the business was in transformation” (UK). Possible cultural 3 factor. “Public opinion is swayed by much differences (Denmark) also need to be more than CSR communications such as addressed in communicating CSR as the nature of the product, history of the public perception can vary (UK). As one company, and personal experience of the manager stated, it “depends on which company (as a consumer, supplier, or part of the world you are in. Generally, I employee)” (UK). A manager from a think that in Europe the public and the fashion and apparel company stated that, media prefer CSR communications to be “I don't think they are skeptical but they rather subtle and based on actual results” are definitely more alert and this is very (Denmark). important since CSR work hardly ever guarantee 100% security in the full chain of suppliers” (Denmark). 36