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[ecrea] Special Issue of Business and Society on CSR and Communication

Tue Sep 22 18:49:37 GMT 2015

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Business & Society

CSR and Communication: Examining how CSR Shapes, and is Shaped by, Talk and Text

Guest editors:
Andrew Crane, Schulich School of Business
Mette Morsing, Copenhagen Business School
Dennis Schoeneborn, Copenhagen Business School

This Special Issue of Business & Society seeks to expand and enrich the body of research on CSR and communication. Specifically, it aims to examine the role of talk and text (including verbal, visual and written communication) in shaping the nature and meaning of CSR – and how CSR meanings in turn shape such communication. This may include scholarly contributions that will extend our understanding of how rhetoric, narrative, discourse, sensemaking, and other frameworks of meaning are involved in CSR communication.

The existing literature on CSR tends to be – at least implicitly – permeated with a normative or prescriptive stance on CSR communication: either as optimism about how communication of CSR can be used by corporations to foster their reputation and legitimacy (e.g., Sen, Bhattacharaya & Korschun, 2006; Ferrell, Gonzalez-Padron, Hult & Maignan, 2010) – or with a rather skeptical stance. These latter works suspect that communication tends to be used by corporations as a powerful means to ward off criticism and give false impressions of ‘green-washing’ or ‘window-dressing’ (e.g., Roberts, 2003; Banerjee, 2008). Across these perspectives, communication tends to be primarily seen as an instrument that is employed by corporations to disseminate information about CSR practices (that have already been implemented to a greater or lesser degree).

However, the prospective, anticipatory, and formative role of communication for CSR has, thus far, tended to remain implicit or under-theorized. More specifically, communicative practices can play an important and formative role, for instance, in constituting networked relationships between business firms and larger society (Castello, Morsing & Schultz, 2013; Schoeneborn & Trittin, 2013), in driving organizational and social change (Christensen, Morsing & Thyssen, 2013; Haack, Schoeneborn & Wickert, 2012), in constituting new subject relations in the field of CSR (Caruana & Crane, 2008), and enabling sensemaking about what CSR can and cannot be (Basu & Palazzo, 2008). In other words, there is a need to understand better what communication does to CSR and what CSR does to communication.

If CSR is a “moving target” (Christensen et al., 2013; Haack & Schoeneborn, 2015), “in constant flux” (Carroll, 1979) and “in a continuing state of emergence” (Lockett, Moon & Visser, 2006) as scholars and practitioners tend to agree, then a static and tool-like understanding of CSR communication seems to be insufficient. New information and communication technologies (e.g., social media) appear to further push and transform the communicative dynamics within and between organizations and their environment (Castello et al., 2013; Whelan, Moon & Grant, 2013). These new challenges suggest the need for communication-centered works that can help understand how CSR is a continuous activity through which individuals and organizations “explore, construct, negotiate and modify what it means to be a socially responsible organization” (Christensen & Cheney, 2011, p. 491).

We therefore suggest bringing a formative view of communication to the forefront of CSR research in this Business & Society special issue. We invite contributions that take stock of our existing knowledge and advance CSR communication theory through new conceptual considerations, empirical insights, and critical reflections. We particularly encourage papers that approach CSR communication through talk and text by drawing on concepts like rhetoric, narratives, discourse, sensemaking, as well as other frameworks that help inform the formative role of communication in CSR. This also may involve papers grounded in more general constructionist per¬spectives, including works that follow emergent ideas of “communicative institutionalism” (Cornelissen, Durand, Fiss, Lammers & Vaara, 2015) or the “communicative constitution of organizations” (CCO) perspective (Cooren, Kuhn, Cornelissen & Clarke, 2011). In this way, we hope to be able to compile a rich set of articles that help enhance our understanding of what communication does to CSR and what CSR does to communication.

We welcome a broad range of questions and topic areas within the broad theme – some indicative questions include:

• How do different forms of communication shape stakeholder interpretations of the meaning and scope of CSR? In what ways is CSR communication performative with material impacts (see also the idea of “aspirational talk” by Christensen et al., 2013)? • How do different actors respond to, resist, and engage with specific rhetorical strategies and figures (e.g., allusion, analogy, hyperbole, metaphor, metonymy, or humor), employed by corporations in their CSR communication? • What narrative structures and components are used to give meaning to the process of CSR design and implementation? • How do actors in organizational settings differ in their sensemaking of CSR, including productive forms of misunderstanding? • In what ways does intensified “CSR talk” influence the formation and change of individual, professional and organizational identities in the workplace (e.g., in terms of improved self-enhancement and identification as well as cynicism and “CSR fatigue”)? • How is CSR knowledge embedded in micro and macro discourses of organization and what role do governmentality and responsibilization play in discursive formations of CSR? • By whom, and for what purpose is the meaning of CSR (as an “empty signifier”) constituted through signs and symbols? What new semiotic language does CSR bring into economic life? • To what extent does the formative role of communication for CSR become intensified by new information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as social media? For example, in what ways does it influence and change image-identity relations for individuals and organizations? • To what extent do new ICTs enable the creation of new, fluid, and networked forms of communication structures that, in turn, create new issues of corporate social responsibility (e.g., transparency, privacy, and surveillance) and different forms of accountability and disclosure?


The deadline for submission of full papers is December 12, 2016. Authors should submit their manuscripts through Scholar