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Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2202; doi:10.3390/su9122202

Tensions in Aspirational CSR Communication—A Longitudinal Investigation of CSR Reporting

College of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin 2, Ireland
Received: 24 October 2017 / Revised: 15 November 2017 / Accepted: 15 November 2017 / Published: 29 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Abstract

A recent emergence of academic discourse within organisation and management scholarship is encouraging organisations to embrace the performative power of aspirational talk within corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. However, there has been no empirical study to date to investigate the appropriateness of such encouragement. This paper analyses CSR reporting and underlying sensemaking processes to trace how far this academic departure from the dominant discourse of verification and standardisation is reflected and accepted within this practice. The process-focused, longitudinal study is based on a discursive analysis of Nestlé CSR reports, revealing the struggles between forward and backward facing statements, and tracing the discursive management of tensions between talk and action over a period between 2002 and 2016. The discursive analysis is complemented with findings from seven in-depth interviews with Nestlé senior managers and external non-governmental organisation (NGO) stakeholders to provide insights into the underlying organisational sensemaking. Three tension management phases are detected in the reporting shifting from ignoring aspiration to allowing for a dialectic interplay between aspiration and performance. The interview findings support the detection of the three phases, highlight the dialectic interplay between retrospective and prospective sensemaking as part of the iterative reporting, and underscore the importance of stakeholder involvement in the process. View Full-Text
Keywords: CSR reporting; aspirational CSR talk; talk–action tension; discourse; dialectics; paradox process study; organisational sensemaking CSR reporting; aspirational CSR talk; talk–action tension; discourse; dialectics; paradox process study; organisational sensemaking
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Koep, L. Tensions in Aspirational CSR Communication—A Longitudinal Investigation of CSR Reporting. Sustainability 2017, 9, 2202.

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