Corporate communication, ethics, and operational identity: A case study of benetton

Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 18 (3):209-223 (2009)
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Abstract

This article investigates conceptual and strategic relationships between corporate identity, organizational identity and ethics, utilizing the Benetton Corporation as an illustrative case study. Although much attention has been given to visual aspects of Benetton's renowned ethical brand building efforts, few studies have looked at how Benetton's employees, retail environments and trade events express ethical aspects of their well-known corporate identity. A multi-method case study, including interviews at retail outlets and trade events, sheds light on several important yet under-studied components of corporate identity, including stakeholders such as retail managers and contract employees. Analysis of Benetton's operations revealed disconnection and inconsistency, as well as a failure to communicate ethical values and socially responsible attributes throughout organizational identity. Operational identity emerged as a useful complement to models of corporate identity. We demonstrate the way in which organizations may fail to capitalize on positive aspects of their organizational identity by neglecting their operational identity.

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Janet Borgerson
DePaul University