CSR-communication in the Business Press: Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity

Mette Morsing, Roy Langer

    Research output: Working paperResearch

    Abstract

    In this paper we analyze the construction of corporate social responsibility in the business press as an act of strategic ambiguity. While corporate social responsibility (CSR) generally evokes positive associations in public opinion, this paper demonstrates that these associations are based on a broadly encompassing and ambiguous definition of CSR. Our empirical data shows how the business press in its discourse on CSR provides no clarity on the definition of CSR in terms of a coherent motive, a dominant stakeholder or a consistent issue, but rather maintains ambiguity and imprecision about the meaning and content of CSR. While ambiguity and imprecision may be seen as an act of uncertainty in a passing stage when a new phenomenon emerges and develops, our longitudinal data demonstrates how ambiguity is preserved during a ten year period in four different daily newspapers. Ambiguity is systematically maintained in the business press. We refer to this process as strategic ambiguity. The paper discusses the potential value and limitations of framing CSR in a state of strategic ambiguity in the context of the concurrent rethinking of the role of business in modern welfare societies.
    In this paper we analyze the construction of corporate social responsibility in the business press as an act of strategic ambiguity. While corporate social responsibility (CSR) generally evokes positive associations in public opinion, this paper demonstrates that these associations are based on a broadly encompassing and ambiguous definition of CSR. Our empirical data shows how the business press in its discourse on CSR provides no clarity on the definition of CSR in terms of a coherent motive, a dominant stakeholder or a consistent issue, but rather maintains ambiguity and imprecision about the meaning and content of CSR. While ambiguity and imprecision may be seen as an act of uncertainty in a passing stage when a new phenomenon emerges and develops, our longitudinal data demonstrates how ambiguity is preserved during a ten year period in four different daily newspapers. Ambiguity is systematically maintained in the business press. We refer to this process as strategic ambiguity. The paper discusses the potential value and limitations of framing CSR in a state of strategic ambiguity in the context of the concurrent rethinking of the role of business in modern welfare societies.
    LanguageEnglish
    Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
    PublisherCenter for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Print)9788792114006
    StatePublished - 2007

    Bibliographical note

    This paper was presented at the 11th International Conference on Corporate and Marketing Communications Ljubljana, April 21st-22nd, 2006

    Cite this

    Morsing, M., & Langer, R. (2007). CSR-communication in the Business Press: Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity. Frederiksberg: Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS.
    Morsing, Mette ; Langer, Roy. / CSR-communication in the Business Press : Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity. Frederiksberg : Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS, 2007.
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    Morsing, M & Langer, R 2007 'CSR-communication in the Business Press: Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity' Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS, Frederiksberg.

    CSR-communication in the Business Press : Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity. / Morsing, Mette; Langer, Roy.

    Frederiksberg : Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS, 2007.

    Research output: Working paperResearch

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    Morsing M, Langer R. CSR-communication in the Business Press: Advantages of Strategic Ambiguity. Frederiksberg: Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS. 2007.