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.
    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.
    LanguageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Volume120
    Issue number4
    Pages555-569
    Number of pages15
    ISSN0167-4544
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2014

    Keywords

      Cite this

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      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",
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      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

      T2 - Journal of Business Ethics

      JF - Journal of Business Ethics

      SN - 0167-4544

      IS - 4

      ER -