Session 18, Giese

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CSR Concepts: Sustainability Communication

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Session 18, Giese

  1. 1. The use of communication mediafor sustainability communicationin small- and medium sized enterprisesNicole GieseResearch AssociateCentre for Sustainability Management (CSM)Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germanywww.leuphana.de/csmCorporate Communication Conference, Amsterdam 28.10.2011
  2. 2. Introduction Corporate Sustainability Communication (CSC) is characterized by social, ecological and economic information as well as their interdependences between them. (Elkington, 1998) The objective of this paper is to obtain insights about the CSC Management in SMEs by analyzing the communication process of a sustainability-oriented SME in a single case study. Two theoretical approaches motivated this research a) Media Richness Theory b) Media Synchronicity Theory
  3. 3. Research question Use of few formal instruments, i.e. formalized tools, such as codes, reports, and social, environmental, and ethical standards (Russo & Tencati 2009: 340), and corporate magazines and newsletters (Murillo and Lozano, 2006; Perrini et al., 2007). CSC in SMEs is primarily informal, Embedded in the local unsystematic and society, SMEs prefer a does not face its direct and informal relevance (Nielsen and stakeholder dialogue Thomsen, 2009; cf. Preuss What are the relevant (Spence et al., 2000; and Perschke, 2010). criteria which are Graafland et al., 2003). driving the deployment of CSC media CSC is very often in SMEs and why? neither integrated in Especially informal the existing tools, i.e. tools management, nor part without of the corporate standardization, play strategy (Nielsen and a major role for SMEs Thomson, 2009). Ad-hoc activities, day-to- (Russo and Tencati, 2009). day decisions without measurement because of a lack of resources (Russo & Tencati 2009).
  4. 4. Research approach: sample, methodology, data collection and design Sample - Bohlsener Mühle V. Krause e. K., owner-managed watermill located in Lower- Saxony, Germany (1979) - producing and trading with corn products like bread, cakes, cereals, cracker, convenience food, etc. (157 products without fresh bakery products) completely organic and mostly regional - own brand and private labels in Germany and abroad - annual turnover of round about 22 million of euros - 160 people, professional education for such as eight careers . Methodology, data collection and data processing - qualitative case study (Yin, 2003; Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007), following an in- depth study of a single-case in order to contribute to theory - the data has been conducted out of multiple sources for the reason of triangulation (Yin, 2003) including semi-structured interviews, observation for three days nonparticipating (Bernard, 2006) and documentation available in the public domain
  5. 5. Main findings External communication - public-relation (PR) reports, advertisements, its homepage, brochures, flyer, public events, trade fairs and guided tours through the location e. g. for school classes - mainly used media: trade fairs and public relations activities. This media transmit information about the core business and the philosophy of the company - the safest and most applicable media to communicate sustainability information are trade fairs, PR-activities and lectures - the internet is used for the homepage and for PR-publications - Regarding social media, the head of marketing stated that not all tools are seen serious enough to communicate sustainability information - a webcam shows the latest steps of the company s projects, e. g. the actual plant extension - in general, the selected company uses informal instruments, like open door-days, open discussions, mouth-to-mouth-communication and voluntary participation in the local region - few formal CSC instruments come to more practice with suppliers and major customers (EU-ecolabel or Bioland)
  6. 6. Main findings Internal communication - all the mentioned media for external communication - in addition, informal media like the black board or meetings are used as well as short breaks - lunchroom, , terrace and coffee-corner with handmade bread and marmalade is offered the whole day. Although there is a meeting room, the most talks between the employees take place in the coffee corner - it is more common to have little chat then to write an email or even to call each other In general - no formal CSC strategy - but the results seem to suggest that there is an implied CSC strategy
  7. 7. Conclusion - the main medium for CSC in SME is face-to-face communication - the choice of formal or informal instruments also seems to depend on the geographical distance. In local context, informal tools seem to be more effective; with more distance, information needs to be more formalized. An explanation could be the link to credibility and trust: the local region is much connected with the company, knows the owner and the watermill itself has a long-time history. This is decreasing with distance and less popularity - the findings of the case study revealed that a formal CSC strategy like it is used in large companies does not fit with SMEs and even that it is not useful to SMEs for CSC
  8. 8. BACK UP
  9. 9. Introduction: Definiton and character of CSC Corporate Sustainability Communication (CSC) is characterized by social, ecological and economic information as well as their interdependences between them (Elkington, 1998). CSC stresses special challenges on the communication management because the CSC topics vary from biodiversity and working conditions to carbon accounting in the supply chain and the recipients of that information could be an expert or a layman – both just with an interest for the company in common. Moreover information about corporate sustainability has several tasks, e. g. to inform, to appreciate something, to change understanding, etc. Against this background, this information can be characterized as “rich” information (Daft and Lengel, 1984). For a successful coping of its tasks, rich information needs a rich medium which is able to transmit the information to the addressee. The objective of this paper is to obtain insights about the CSC Management in SMEs by analyzing the communication process of a sustainability-oriented SME in a single case study.
  10. 10. Research approach: Research question and theoretical framework Two theoretical approaches motivated this research: media richness and media synchronicity. What are the relevant criteria which are Both emphasize how communication media differ in the extent to which they driving the deployment of CSC media (a) can overcome various communication constraints of time, location, permanence, distribution, and distance; b) transmit the social, symbolic, and nonverbal cues of human communication; and (c) convey equivocal information (Rice, 1993). in SMEs and why? A successful communication process depends on the applicable medium (Daft and Lengel, 1984). In comparison to Media Richness Theory which is oriented around task-level activities, “Media Synchronicity conceptualizes tasks as made up of both conveyance and convergence processes and consider more advanced electronic communications media” (Dennis et al., 1998). Media Synchronicity is defined as „ the extent to which individuals work together on the same activity at the same time; i.e., have a shared focus” (Dennis and Valacich, 1999: 5
  11. 11. Conclusion - the main medium for CSC in SME is face-to-face communication, because… within CSC is much rich information which needs to be transmitted with a rich medium. This medium has to allow synchronicity as well. a lack of resources could be a motivation to use a less expensive or time-intensive medium (it could be noted that a personal and direct communication is not as expensive as it is in larger companies - the choice of formal or informal instruments also seems to depend on the geographical distance. In local context, informal tools seem to be more effective; with more distance, information needs to be more formalized. An explanation could be the link to credibility and trust: the local region is much connected with the company, knows the owner and the watermill itself has a long-time history. This is decreasing with distance and less popularity. - the findings of the case study revealed that a formal CSC strategy like it is used in large companies does not fit with SMEs and even that it is not useful to SMEs for CSC

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