Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: re-assessment of classical theories about fit between CSR actions and corporate activities

Communication & Society

View Publication Info
Field Value
Title Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: re-assessment of classical theories about fit between CSR actions and corporate activities
Comunicación de RSC: una revisión de las tesis clásicas sobre la coherencia entre la acción de RSC y la actividad organizacional
Creator Nuria Villagra
Miguel A. M. Cárdaba
José A. Ruiz San Román
Description The literature on effective communication of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) paints a complex and occasionally contradictory picture of the role of alignment between corporate activities and CSR actions, classically termed “corporate fit”. Some authors highlight the importance of such alignment for effective communication of CSR, whereas other authors suggest that such fit can engender skepticism and public behaviors that harm the company. In addition, more recent work suggests the importance of “personal fit”, which refers to alignment between CSR actions and what receivers of the CSR communication consider to be personally relevant. In order to clarify this complex picture, we randomly assigned 86 young people to three groups: one was exposed to CSR communication showing corporate fit, another to CSR communication showing personal fit, and the third to control (non-CSR) communication. In contrast to what the literature might predict, we found that the CSR message with corporate fit was as persuasive as the control message for convincing subjects to rate the company as sincere and honest and to be willing to sign a declaration in favor of the company. The message with personal fit led to higher ratings of sincerity and honesty, as well as greater willingness to sign the declaration. These results suggest the need to re-assess the role of classical corporate fit in the communication of CSR actions, and they raise the possibility that other types of fit exist and may even be stronger determinants of the effectiveness of CSR communication.
La literatura sobre comunicación eficaz de la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa (RSC) es compleja y, en ocasiones, contradictoria respecto al papel de la coherencia entre la actividad de la empresa y las acciones de RSC (fit empresarial clásico). Por una parte, subraya la importancia del fit para una comunicación eficaz. Sin embargo, otros investigadores afirman que el fit podría aumentar el escepticismo y resultar perjudicial. Por último, investigaciones recientes señalan otro tipo de fit: el fit personal, donde lo importante es la coincidencia entre la acción de RSC y los intereses del público. Para intentar esclarecer esta complejidad se llevó a cabo un experimento en el que 86 jóvenes fueron asignados aleatoriamente a tres condiciones experimentales: mensaje de RSC con fit clásico; mensaje de RSC con fit personal y mensaje control. A diferencia de lo que se podría esperar a partir de la literatura previa, no se encontraron diferencias significativas entre los que recibieron el mensaje con fit empresarial y aquellos que recibieron el mensaje control. Por el contrario, aquellos individuos asignados a la condición de fit personal evaluaron a la empresa como más sincera y honesta y manifestaron una intención conductual más favorable hacia ella que los sujetos asignados a la condición de control y que los sujetos asignados a la condición de fit empresarial. El artículo discute la necesidad de replantear el rol del fit clásico empresarial en la comunicación de acciones de RSC y resalta la existencia de otros tipos de fit que pueden ser incluso más determinantes.
Publisher Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Navarra
Type info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Format application/pdf
Source Communication & Society; Vol 29 No 2 (2016); 133-146
Communication & Society; Vol 29 No 2 (2016); 133-146
Language eng
/*ref*/Aguinis, H. & Glavas, A. (2012). What we know and don´t know about Corporate Social Responsibility: A review and research agenda. Journal of Management 38(4), 932-968.
/*ref*/Arthur W. Page Society (2012). Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy. New York, NY: Arthur W. Page Society.
/*ref*/Arvidsson, S. (2010). Communication of corporate social responsibility: A study of the views of management teams in large companies. Journal of Business Ethics 96(3), 339-354.
/*ref*/Ashforth, B.E. & Gibbs, B.W. (1990).The double-edge of organizational legitimation. Organization Science 1(2), 177-194.
/*ref*/Barlett, J.L. & Devin, B. (2011). Management, communication and corporate social responsibility. In Ø. Ihlen, J. L. Bartlett & S. May (Eds.), The handbook of communication and corporate social responsibility (pp. 47-66). UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
/*ref*/Bhattacharya, C.B. & Sen, S. (2004). Doing better at doing good: when, why, and how consumer respond to corporate social initiatives. California Management Review 47(1), 9-24.
/*ref*/Becker-Olsen, K.L., Cudmore, B.A. & Hill, R.P. (2006). The impact of perceived corporate social responsibility on consumer behavior. Journal of Business Research 59(1), 46-53.
/*ref*/Bowen, H. (1953). Social responsibilities of the businessman. New York, NY: Harper.
/*ref*/Branco, M. & Rodrigues, L.L. (2006). Communication of corporate social responsibility by portuguese banks: A legitimacy theory perspective. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 11(3), 232-248.
/*ref*/Brändle, G., Cárdaba, M.A., & Ruiz, J.A. (2011). The Risk of Emergence of Boomerang Effect in Communication against Violence. Comunicar 37(19), 161-168. (DOI: 10.3916/C37-2011-03- 08).
/*ref*/Briñol, P., Corte, L. & Becerra, A. (2008). Qué es persuasión. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.
/*ref*/Carroll, A.B. (1999). Corporate social responsibility evolution of a definitional construct. Business & Society 38(3), 268-295.
/*ref*/Carroll, A.B. & Shabana, K.M. (2010). The business case for corporate social responsibility: a review of concepts, research and practice. International Journal of Management Reviews 12(1), 85-105.
/*ref*/Chun, R. (2005). Corporate reputation: Meaning and measurement. International Journal of Management Reviews 7(2), 91-109.
/*ref*/Du, S., Bhattacharya, C.B. & Sen, S. (2010). Maximizing business returns to corporate social responsibility (CSR): The role of CSR communication. International Journal of Management Reviews 12(1), 8-19.
/*ref*/Elkington, J. (1999). Cannibals with forks. Oxford: Capstone.
/*ref*/Ellen, P.S., Webb, D.J. & Mohr, L.A. (2006). Building corporate associations: Consumer attributions for corporate socially responsible programs. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 34(2), 147-157.
/*ref*/Elving, W.J.L. (2010). CSR and Skepticism: The Influence of Fit and Reputation on Skepticism Towards CSR Communications. Proceedings of the Conference on Corporate Communication 2010, 63-78.
/*ref*/Elving, W.J.L. (2013). Scepticism and corporate social responsibility communications: the influence of fit and reputation. Journal of Marketing Communications 19(4), 277-292.
/*ref*/Elving, W.J.L., Golob, U., Podnar, K., Ellerup-Nielsen, A. & Thomson, C. (2015). The bad, the ugly and the good: new challenges for CSR communication. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 20(2), 118-127.
/*ref*/Fan, Y. (2005). Ethical branding and corporate reputation. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 10(4), 341-350.
/*ref*/Garriga, E. & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate Social Responsibility Theories: Mapping the Territory. Journal of Business Ethics 53, 51-71.
/*ref*/Golob, U., Podnar, K., Elving, W.J.L., Nielsen, A.E., Thomsen, C. & Schultz, F. (2013). CSR communication: quo vadis? Corporate Communications: An International Journal 18(2), 176-192.
/*ref*/Grohmann, B. & Bodur, H.O. (2015). Brand Social Responsibility: Conceptualization, measurement, and outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics 131, 375-399.
/*ref*/Fombrun, C.J. (1996). Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
/*ref*/Forehand, M.R. & Grier, S. (2003). When is honesty the best policy? The effect of stated company intent on consumer skepticism. Journal of Consumer Psychology 13(3), 349-356.
/*ref*/Hale, J., Mongeau, P. & Thomas, R. (1991). Cognitive processing of one- and two-sided persuasive message. Western Journal of Speech Communication 55, 380-389.
/*ref*/Illia, L., Zyglidopoulos, S.C., Romenti, S., Rodríguez-Canovas, B. & González del Valle, A. (2013). Communicating CSR to a cynical public. MIT Sloan Management Review 54(3), 16- 19.
/*ref*/Jahdi, K.S. & Acikdilli, G. (2009). Marketing communications and corporate social responsibility (CSR): Marriage of convenience or shotgun wedding? Journal of Business Ethics 88(1), 103-113.
/*ref*/Kotler, P. & Lee, N. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: Doing the most good for your company and your cause. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
/*ref*/Lewis, S. (2001). Measuring corporate reputation. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 6(1), 31-35.
/*ref*/Lii, Y.S. & Lee, M. (2012). Doing right leads to doing well: When the type of CSR and reputation interact to affect consumer evaluations of the firm. Journal of Business Ethics 105(1), 69-81.
/*ref*/Middlemiss, N. (2003). Authentic not cosmetic: CSR as brand enhancement. The Journal of Brand Management 10(4), 353-361.
/*ref*/Morsing, M. & Schultz, M. (2006). Corporate social responsibility communication: stakeholder information, response and involvement strategies. Business Ethics: A European Review 15(4), 323-338.
/*ref*/Morsing, M., Schultz, M. & Nielsen, K.U. (2008). The ‘Catch 22’of communicating CSR: Findings from a Danish study. Journal of Marketing Communications 14(2), 97-111.
/*ref*/Nan, X. & Heo, K. (2007). Consumer responses to corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives: examining the role of brand-cause fit in cause-related marketing. Journal of Advertising 36(2), 63-74.
/*ref*/Pollach, I. (2005). Corporate self-presentation on the WWW: Strategies for enhancing usability, credibility and utility. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 10(4), 285-301.
/*ref*/Polonsky, M. & Jevons, C. (2009). Global branding and strategic CSR: an overview of three types of complexity. International Marketing Review 26(3), 327-347.
/*ref*/Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. (2006).The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review 84(12), 78-92.
/*ref*/Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. (2011).Creating shared value. Harvard Business Review 89 (1-2), 62-77.
/*ref*/Rodríguez, L.C. & Le Master, J. (2007). Voluntary corporate social responsibility disclosure SEC “CSR Seal of Approval”. Business & Society 46(3), 370-384.
/*ref*/Sen, S. & Bhattacharya, C.B. (2001). Does doing good always lead to doing better? Consumer reactions to corporate social responsibility. Journal of Marketing Research 38(2), 225- 243.
/*ref*/Scherer, A.G. & Palazzo, G. (2007). Toward a political conception of corporate responsibility: Business and society seen from a Habermasian perspective. Academy of Management Review 32(4), 1096-1120.
/*ref*/Schlegelmilch, B.B. & Pollach, I. (2005). The perils and opportunities of communicating corporate ethics. Journal of Marketing Management 21(3-4), 267-290.
/*ref*/Schmeltz, L. (2012). Consumer-oriented CSR communication: focusing on ability or morality? Corporate Communications: An International Journal 17(1), 29-49.
/*ref*/Seele, P. & Lock, I. (2015). Instrumental and/or deliberative? A typology of CSR Communication tools. Journal of Business Ethics 131, 401-414.
/*ref*/Simmons, C.J. & Becker-Olsen, K.L. (2006). Achieving marketing objectives through social sponsorships. Journal of Marketing 70(4), 154-169.
/*ref*/Skard, S. & Thorbjørnsen, H. (2014). Is publicity always better than advertising? The role of brand reputation in communicating corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics 124, 149-160.
/*ref*/Swaen, V. & Vanhamme, J. (2004). See how “Good” we are: The Dangers of Using Corporate Social Activities in Communication Campaigns. Advances in Consumer Research 31, 302- 303.
/*ref*/Swaen, V. & Vanhamme, J. (2005). The use of corporate social responsibility arguments in communication campaigns: does source credibility matter? Advances in Consumer Research 32(1), 590-591.
/*ref*/Van de Ven, B. (2008). An ethical framework for the marketing of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics 82(2), 339-352.
/*ref*/Vanhamme, J. & Grobben, B. (2009). “Too good to be true!”. The effectiveness of CSR history in countering negative publicity. Journal of Business Ethics 85(2), 273-283.
/*ref*/Villagra, N. & López, B. (2013). Analysis of values and communication of the responsible brands. Corporate brand strategies for sustainability. Communication & Society / Comunicación y Sociedad 26(1), 196-221.
/*ref*/Waddock, S., Bodwell, C. & Graves, S.B. (2002). Responsibility: the new business imperative.vAcademy of Management Executive 16(2), 132-148.
/*ref*/Waddock S. & Goggins, B.K. (2011). The paradoxes of communicating corporate social responsibility. In Ø. Ihlen, J. L. Bartlett & S. May (Eds.), The handbook of communication and corporate social responsibility (pp. 23-43). UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
/*ref*/Yoon, Y., Gürhan-Canli, Z. & Schwarz, N. (2006). The effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on companies with bad reputations. Journal of Consumer Psychology 16(4), 377-390.
/*ref*/Zyglidopoulos, S.C. (2002). The social and environmental responsibilities of multinationals: evidence from the Brent Spar case. Journal of Business Ethics 36(1-2), 141-151.
Rights Copyright (c) 2019 Communication & Society

Contact Us

The PKP Index is an initiative of the Public Knowledge Project.

For PKP Publishing Services please use the PKP|PS contact form.

For support with PKP software we encourage users to consult our wiki for documentation and search our support forums.

For any other correspondence feel free to contact us using the PKP contact form.

Find Us


Copyright © 2015-2018 Simon Fraser University Library