CSR rhetoric in Latin America and Scandinavia

Ioana Blaga & Victoria Rodríguez

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis looks into how multinational companies differ when they communicate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rhetoric strategies through corporate discourse. Through a rhetoric analysis of 74 executive letter included in annual or sustainability reports from firms located in Latin America and Scandinavia, we have reviewed how their written discourses can be useful to identify which rhetoric strategy they communicate in relation to their aim to legitimate their role as multinational businesses. We propose and determine the existence of 4 types of rhetoric:  Strategic CSR rhetoric, which is rooted in the economic pattern of the firm.  Institutional CSR rhetoric, which is entrenched on the fundamentals of CSR theories.  Dialectic CSR rhetoric aims to improve the dialog between firm and stakeholders.  Political CSR rhetoric, based on the new political role of the firm and the collaborations with Governments and civil society. Each one of these rhetoric categories refers to a different form of legitimacy and is based on distinct theories of the firm analyzed in this thesis. The pragmatic legitimacy is achieved through the strategic rhetoric; the cognitive legitimacy through the institutional rhetoric; and the moral legitimacy through the dialectic and political rhetoric. We claim that the political rhetoric seems to signal a new understanding of the firm’s role in society and a search for moral legitimation. However, this new form of rhetoric is still fairly uncommon although its use is growing. The business perspective on CSR is not only influenced by internal motivations and deliberate insight, but is to a large extent guided by the way society defines standards of acceptable social corporate behavior. Therefore, we also review the state of the national business systems in both regions and as well acknowledge the perception of stakeholder pressures toward. We also consider the globalization pressures and the getting closer trends for CSR reporting. By combining theory and business examples, this thesis could help managers and scholars in the conceptualization of how firms understand their role in society and how they try to differentiate themselves through their CSR rhetoric strategies.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages167