CSR and the Mediated Emergence of Strategic Ambiguity

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    We develop a framework for understanding how lack of clarity in business press coverage of corporate social responsibility functions as a mediated and emergent form of strategic ambiguity. Many stakeholders expect CSR to exhibit clarity, consistency, and discursive closure. But stakeholders also expect CSR to conform to varying degrees of both formal and substantive rationality. These diverse expectations conflict with each other and change over time. A content analysis of press coverage in Denmark suggests that the business media reflect and amplify the ambiguity generated by these shifting demands. We propose that this very public lack of discursive closure provides strategic advantages to CSR stakeholders by rendering the concept of CSR adaptable, resilient, and meaningful to diverse interests. From this perspective, strategic ambiguity emerges from a relational and mediated process, not from the direct intentions of individual stakeholders. Our framework suggests that CSR is best understood not as a clear or consistent agenda, but rather as a forum for sensemaking, diversity of opinion, and debate over the conflicting social norms and expectations attached to corporate activity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Volume120
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)555-569
    Number of pages15
    ISSN0167-4544
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Cite this

    @article{47e20de5dffc4581879c490ef71bd53f,
    title = "CSR and the Mediated Emergence of Strategic Ambiguity",
    abstract = "We develop a framework for understanding how lack of clarity in business press coverage of corporate social responsibility functions as a mediated and emergent form of strategic ambiguity. Many stakeholders expect CSR to exhibit clarity, consistency, and discursive closure. But stakeholders also expect CSR to conform to varying degrees of both formal and substantive rationality. These diverse expectations conflict with each other and change over time. A content analysis of press coverage in Denmark suggests that the business media reflect and amplify the ambiguity generated by these shifting demands. We propose that this very public lack of discursive closure provides strategic advantages to CSR stakeholders by rendering the concept of CSR adaptable, resilient, and meaningful to diverse interests. From this perspective, strategic ambiguity emerges from a relational and mediated process, not from the direct intentions of individual stakeholders. Our framework suggests that CSR is best understood not as a clear or consistent agenda, but rather as a forum for sensemaking, diversity of opinion, and debate over the conflicting social norms and expectations attached to corporate activity.",
    keywords = "CSR, The business press, Stakeholders, Strategic ambiguity, Discursive closure, Mediation",
    author = "Eric Guthey and Mette Morsing",
    year = "2014",
    doi = "10.1007/s10551-013-2005-7",
    language = "English",
    volume = "120",
    pages = "555--569",
    journal = "Journal of Business Ethics",
    issn = "0167-4544",
    publisher = "Springer",
    number = "4",

    }

    CSR and the Mediated Emergence of Strategic Ambiguity. / Guthey, Eric; Morsing, Mette.

    In: Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 120, No. 4, 2014, p. 555-569.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - CSR and the Mediated Emergence of Strategic Ambiguity

    AU - Guthey, Eric

    AU - Morsing, Mette

    PY - 2014

    Y1 - 2014

    N2 - We develop a framework for understanding how lack of clarity in business press coverage of corporate social responsibility functions as a mediated and emergent form of strategic ambiguity. Many stakeholders expect CSR to exhibit clarity, consistency, and discursive closure. But stakeholders also expect CSR to conform to varying degrees of both formal and substantive rationality. These diverse expectations conflict with each other and change over time. A content analysis of press coverage in Denmark suggests that the business media reflect and amplify the ambiguity generated by these shifting demands. We propose that this very public lack of discursive closure provides strategic advantages to CSR stakeholders by rendering the concept of CSR adaptable, resilient, and meaningful to diverse interests. From this perspective, strategic ambiguity emerges from a relational and mediated process, not from the direct intentions of individual stakeholders. Our framework suggests that CSR is best understood not as a clear or consistent agenda, but rather as a forum for sensemaking, diversity of opinion, and debate over the conflicting social norms and expectations attached to corporate activity.

    AB - We develop a framework for understanding how lack of clarity in business press coverage of corporate social responsibility functions as a mediated and emergent form of strategic ambiguity. Many stakeholders expect CSR to exhibit clarity, consistency, and discursive closure. But stakeholders also expect CSR to conform to varying degrees of both formal and substantive rationality. These diverse expectations conflict with each other and change over time. A content analysis of press coverage in Denmark suggests that the business media reflect and amplify the ambiguity generated by these shifting demands. We propose that this very public lack of discursive closure provides strategic advantages to CSR stakeholders by rendering the concept of CSR adaptable, resilient, and meaningful to diverse interests. From this perspective, strategic ambiguity emerges from a relational and mediated process, not from the direct intentions of individual stakeholders. Our framework suggests that CSR is best understood not as a clear or consistent agenda, but rather as a forum for sensemaking, diversity of opinion, and debate over the conflicting social norms and expectations attached to corporate activity.

    KW - CSR

    KW - The business press

    KW - Stakeholders

    KW - Strategic ambiguity

    KW - Discursive closure

    KW - Mediation

    U2 - 10.1007/s10551-013-2005-7

    DO - 10.1007/s10551-013-2005-7

    M3 - Journal article

    VL - 120

    SP - 555

    EP - 569

    JO - Journal of Business Ethics

    JF - Journal of Business Ethics

    SN - 0167-4544

    IS - 4

    ER -