Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting as Displays of Pervasive Societal Values: A Longitudinal Analysis of Discourse Developments in Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

Amanda Behrendt

Student thesis: Master thesis


The thesis investigates the development of pervasive societal values in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, through the lens of the European Union’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive. The EU Non-Financial Reporting Directives drafts the legal requirements for reporting on non-financial corporate activities. The legal requirement of the Directive includes specifications of which matters of non-financial nature are required to be encompassed in the annual CSR report. These areas of reporting, which includes environmental protection, social responsibility and treatment of employees, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery and diversity measures, at once form the guiding frame of the thesis, while also contributing to the research approach. The thesis, which has employed the research question ‘How does corporations’ CSR reporting reflect societal development regarding prevalent values?’ is based on an inductive, longitudinal, qualitative multiple-case study, with a data set consisting of six CSR reports from two Danish corporations, the scientific-philosophical approach is a dyadic one, combining hermeneutics and social constructivism. The corporations were chosen on a basis of three selection parameters. The EU Non-financial Reporting Directive had to be applicable to the corporation, the corporation had to be the largest within its corporate sector, and had to do business within a sector that has high relevance for an average consumer, in order to expand the applicability of the findings. The theoretical approach is threefold, applying Postmodernisation as a theoretical framework for analysing value development and prevalence, while Corporate Social Responsibility theory is applied to guide the understanding of CSR measures and approaches. Lastly Critical Discourse Analysis is applied both as theory and methodology, to provide an understanding of the reflexive nature of language use and social development. While the analysis contributed to gaining the understanding that CSR reporting, in fact, does reflect pervasive societal values, it simultaneously provided the insight that the reporting is highly responsive and normative, to the extent where it must be assumed that the prevalence of the values in the report are a result of the legal requirements creating a framework in which reporting is a response to a requirement, more so than a voluntary process of communicating internalised truly held values. The results indicate that additional research combining the findings with other analysis approaches, such as through the lens of corporate communication, or consumer culture communication, could provide a more extensive understanding of the reflexivity between society and corporate actors, as well as the interrelatedness between language and social context.

EducationsMaster of Business, Language and Culture, Intercultural Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages285
SupervisorsKarin Buhmann