A Dynamic Review of the Emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

Abstract

Recent reviews show a rapid increase in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication literature. However, while mapping the literature and the field of CSR communication, they do not fully capture the evolutionary character of this emerging interdisciplinary endeavour. This paper seeks to fill this gap by presenting a follow-up study of the CSR communication literature from a dynamic perspective, which focuses on micro-discursive changes in the field. A bibliometric approach and frame theory are used to examine (dis)continuities in the development of field ‘frames’ in three consecutive periods between 2002 and 2016. The article highlights the growing fragmentation of the CSR communication field over time and the existence of 11 distinct frames during the field’s emergence, whereby the two most prominent in the three time periods are the reporting and business case frames. Regardless, they are subjected to discursive changes as well. For example, they become split into stakeholder-focused, business case and institutionalisation frame and contested by the constitutive logic, respectively. The paper argues that interdisciplinary fields like CSR communication can rarely exist without contestation. It also shows that micro-framing processes such as fragmentation, merging and extension visibly shape the identified field frames and the overall discursive dynamic of the CSR communication field while investigating their value for sustaining the field’s polyphonic state and further development. The study findings suggest that additional cross-fertilisation processes between the CSR communication literature and sustainability and digital communication research hold the potential to influence the next stage of the field’s discursive evolution.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Profs. Laura Spence and Mette Morsing for sharing their valuable ideas with us on earlier versions of the paper.

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Correspondence to Urša Golob.

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Nataša Verk, Urša Golob, and Klement Podnar declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Verk, N., Golob, U. & Podnar, K. A Dynamic Review of the Emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility Communication. J Bus Ethics 168, 491–515 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04232-6

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Communication
  • Review