Discursive Tensions in CSR Multi-stakeholder Dialogue: A Foucauldian Perspective

Abstract

Corporate social responsibility is a complex discipline that not only demands responsible behavior in production processes but also includes the concepts of communicative transparency and dialogue. Stakeholder dialogue is therefore expected to be an integrated part of the CSR strategy (Morsing and Schultz in Bus Ethics: A Eur Rev 14(4):323–338, 2006). However, only few studies have addressed the practice of CSR stakeholder dialogue and the challenges related hereto. This article adopts a postmodern perspective on CSR stakeholder dialogue. Based on a comprehensive single case study on stakeholder dialogue in a global dairy company, we focus on the complexity of CSR dialogue with multiple stakeholders. Drawing on a critical reflexive methodology (Alvesson and Kärreman in Acad Manag Rev 32(4):1265–1281, 2007), we develop the research question: How is CSR multi-stakeholder dialogue practiced, experienced, and articulated in an empirical context? The purpose is to understand the underlying assumptions, expectations, and principles guiding CSR multi-stakeholder dialogue in an empirical setting, as we focus on how key stakeholders articulate and anticipate the values of stakeholder dialogue and how the actual stakeholder dialogues are enacted. The findings of the study differ significantly from the ideals of transparent and agenda-free stakeholder dialogue. Rather, the study shows an overall tension between ideal and practice, supporting the progressive importance of the dialogue process in itself as an essential part of the end goal. The implication of this is a growing pressure on creating transparency about the (re)positioning and negotiation of roles throughout the dialogue process.

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Notes

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    According to Hardy and Phillips (2004) self-positioning regards how the subject mobilizes certain discourses in order to put him- or herself into a specific position, where imposed positioning refers to when others appoint a certain position to the subject, which influences the subject’s rights and possibilities.

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Correspondence to Christiane Marie Høvring.

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Høvring, C.M., Andersen, S.E. & Nielsen, A.E. Discursive Tensions in CSR Multi-stakeholder Dialogue: A Foucauldian Perspective. J Bus Ethics 152, 627–645 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3330-4

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Keywords

  • Case study
  • Communication
  • CSR
  • Dialogue
  • Discourse
  • Foucault
  • Multi-stakeholder
  • Tension