Transcending the Transmission Model: A Reconstruction of CSR Communication from a Constitutive Perspective

University of Zurich, Chair of Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm, Working Paper No. 203.

Paper presented at the 1st CSR Communication Conference, Oct. 26-28, 2011, Amsterdam (Netherlands).

32 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011 Last revised: 19 Mar 2013

See all articles by Dennis Schoeneborn

Dennis Schoeneborn

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology; Copenhagen Business School - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management

Hannah Trittin

Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Andreas Georg Scherer

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 1, 2011

Abstract

Extant research on CSR communication has focused primarily on external communication, i.e. what firms communicate to their environment. At the same time, a large part of this literature exhibits a mechanistic understanding of communication that implies the possibility of a package-like transfer of information and meaning from sender to receiver. However, this notion of communication can be criticized for neglecting the constitutive role of communication for organizations. As an alternative, these authors propose a theoretical perspective known as “communication constitutes organizations” (CCO). The CCO view allows for grasping organizations as holistic and polyphonic communicative entities. Hence, what are the implications for CSR communication when we switch from a mechanistic to a constitutive notion of communication? Our application of the CCO view yields three main findings: (1) CSR communication represents only one of several communicative practices that collectively constitute the organization and that evolve in competition with one another; (2) CSR communication is not only a function of (large-scale) formal organizations, but as a communicative activity it can itself also form the constitutive basis for the emergence of rudimentary, local, and temporary forms of organizing; (3) According to the CCO view, organizations are constituted and stabilized by various non-human entities (e.g., texts or other artifacts) that “act” on their behalf. Thus, CSR communication would need to take also into account the agency and responsibility of these non-human entities, which in some cases lack concrete individual human creators who could be held accountable for. Taken together, our paper links the literature on CSR communication to broader debates in organizational communication studies. By applying the CCO view, we arrive at a new understanding of CSR communication that allows for comprehending the legitimacy and accountability of organizations as holistic communicative phenomena and helps to transcend a one-sided accentuation of the external side of CSR communication.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility (CSR), CSR communication, organizational communication, polyphony, communication constitutes organizations (CCO), social constructionism

Suggested Citation

Schoeneborn, Dennis and Trittin-Ulbrich, Hannah and Scherer, Andreas Georg, Transcending the Transmission Model: A Reconstruction of CSR Communication from a Constitutive Perspective (December 1, 2011). University of Zurich, Chair of Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm, Working Paper No. 203. . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1975785 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1975785

Dennis Schoeneborn (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology ( email )

Plattenstrasse 14
Zürich, 8032
Switzerland

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management ( email )

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Denmark

Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich

Leuphana University of Lüneburg ( email )

United States

Andreas Georg Scherer

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration ( email )

Plattenstrasse 14
Zurich, 8032
Switzerland
+41 44-63 45302 (Phone)
+41 44-63 45301 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.business.uzh.ch/professorships/as.html

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