Is CSR communication just talking on and about CSR?

Is CSR communication just talking on and about CSR?


There is a huge variety of – and even controversyaround – definitions of CSR in the multidisciplinaryacademic literature, as well as with practitioners. However, since “CSR” isdifficult to define, the same is true for “CSR Communication”. CSRcommunication is a delicate issue due to the fact that it involves the inherentproblem of mediation, which is associated with sustainability issues.

Faced with this situation many companies avoiddiscussing CSR at all, or at least treat it in a highly restrained manner.However, following Watzlawicks’s axiom, “you cannot not communicate”, thecommunication process in fact begins, whether intentionally or not, as soon asa corporation starts to implement CSR. Consequently,even if a corporation “decides” not to talk about its CSR engagement – perhapsadhering to the mind-set that it is sometimes better to remain silent than tobrag about the latest CSR endeavours –communication still inevitably occurs.
We need to shift our perspective on CSR communicationascribing CSR communication as a service role in relation to CSR to CSRcommunication as part of the CSR mind-set. CSR communication is not justtalking on and about CSR but is CSR in its best sense.
Since CSR is accepted as a mind-set and thus is partof a corporations’ DNA, communication has to emphasize its role as an effectivetransmission belt of the corporate culture to the internal and externalstakeholders. This dimension integrates the mind-set of CSR into the entirecorporate communications spectrum by following a strategy of participation. CSRin communication processes actively puts the interests of stakeholders, interms of supporting the perception of individual benefits as a shared concern, at the centre of attention. It integrates thestakeholders’ interests into all strategic communication decisions andprocesses to potentially strengthen “member identification”. In addition, itstresses the meaning of communication towards listening (pull-communication),rather than talking (push-communication). All too often, corporations giveanswers to questions nobody has asked, and the actual questions remain unanswered.
The precondition for takingresponsibility is to understand the demands that corporations should actuallyrespond to. Following the constructive communication model, corporationsmust connect their own communication contents to thereal-life scenario of the recipients. This is especially true in the context ofthe communication of CSR activities, as corporations must take intoconsideration that not all stakeholder claims can be met by communications,and not all responsibility issues will be raised by stakeholders.
FurtherDimensions of CSR Communication see here.
With excerpts from my contribution to the 1st CSR CommunicationConference 2011 in Amsterdam
Title of the article: Corporate social responsibility communication: towards aphase model of strategic concept development, (CSR Communication Conference 2011, Conference Proceeding, Eds: W. Elving/ F.Schultz/A.-E. Nielsen/Ch. Thomson/K. Podnar)

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