Antecedents and implications of organisational indulgence in rhetoric while communicating on CSR

Vazhappully, Rajeev and Hope, Alex (2018) Antecedents and implications of organisational indulgence in rhetoric while communicating on CSR. In: Corporate Responsibility Research Conference, 10-12 September 2018, University of Leeds.

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Following Aristotelianism, which considers the greatest human virtue to be acting according to community expectations (MacIntyre, 2007) and the conceptualization of an organization as a ‘social actor’ (Whetten and Mackey, 2002), MacIntyre is of the opinion that morality without a purpose is merely symbolic and does not result in substantive benefits for the society. When this statement is juxtaposed with observations from several critics of current organizational practices such as Robert Jackall (1998) who makes the argument that businesses can be associated with ‘organized irresponsibility’, it becomes important for us to develop an understanding of the antecedents and implications of a situation wherein public continue to be increasingly sceptical of the role of business in society. This study looks to answer the following research questions:

1. Why do organisations dispose themselves to indulging in a communication strategy that is viewed with scepticism?

2. On the basis of their indulgence in a communication strategy that is viewed with scepticism, what can be said about the way organisations are generally disposed to the idea of sustainability?

By referring to Bitzer (1968)’s conceptualisation of a rhetorical situation, this study takes the view that the exigence presented by the need to bridge the credibility gap there exists in CSR communication is constrained by the conceptual confusion associated with CSR and how this leads to organisations creating their own CSR narratives while also making sense of CSR. The aspects of sensemaking theory that make it particularly acquiescent to its application in understanding how organisations indulge in CSR is the fact that sensemaking is ongoing with cues for making sense being extracted retrospectively (Weick, 2005) and is about meaning construction in complex and confusing circumstances that results in production of discursive accounts that negotiates a relative position or identity (Cornelisson, 2012). This study will carry out a detailed exposition of the works of various researchers who have explored CSR sensemaking to see if they provide an explanation for organisations indulging in CSR communication that is viewed with scepticism.
This study then discusses the perspective that organisations emerge in communication (Taylor and van Every, 2000) to take the view that since according to this perspective, communication is reflective of how an organisation makes sense of a situation and reacts to it, indulging in CSR communication that is not matched with concrete actions is reflective of an intention to deceive and a disposition to sustainability that can be termed as half hearted at best. This view is contrary to the views of Christensen (2013) who are of the view that aspirational talk on CSR that is not matched with action is also an important resource for social change.
This study finally advocates the use of Baker and Martinson (2001)’s framework on ethical persuasion for organisations communicating on CSR. According to this, a persuader is expected to be genuinely informing and not creating false impressions irrespective of whether what is communicated is at least partially true.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: N100 Business studies
N200 Management studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: Alex Hope
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2018 11:32
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 09:46

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