The Communication of Corporate Social Responsibility: United States and European Union Multinational Corporations

Journal of Business Ethics 74 (4):373-389 (2007)
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This study explores corporate social responsibility (CSR) by conducting a cross-cultural analysis of communication of CSR activities in a total of 16 U.S. and European corporations. Drawing on previous research contrasting two major approaches to CSR initiatives, it was proposed that U.S. companies would tend to communicate about and justify CSR using economic or bottom-line terms and arguments whereas European companies would rely more heavily on language or theories of citizenship, corporate accountability, or moral commitment. Results supported this expectation of difference, with some modification. Specifically, results indicated that EU companies do not value sustainability to the exclusion of financial elements, but instead project sustainability commitments in addition to financial commitments. Further, U.S.-based companies focused more heavily on financial justifications whereas EU-based companies incorporated both financial and sustainability elements in justifying their CSR activities. In addition, wide variance was found in both the prevalence and use of specific CSR-related terminology. Cross-cultural distinctions in this use create implications with regard to measurability and evidence of both strategic and bottom-line impact. Directions for further research are discussed.



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