Investigating CSR communication in SMEs: a case study among Danish middle managers

Business Ethics: A European Review 18 (1):83-93 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper seeks to analyse small‐ and medium‐sized enterprise (SME) managers' representations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and CSR communication in a corporate communication perspective. The basic question is: how strategic is CSR communication in SMEs? Corporate communication and CSR theories are used to establish an ideal typology of CSR concepts informing an analysis of qualitative data in the form of interviews with three middle managers in two Danish SMEs. A CSR communication model published earlier by the authors is challenged from a SME perspective. Results from an Internet‐based questionnaire survey of 1071 SMEs pave the way for the analysis. Our analysis shows that SME managers clearly have an inside‐out approach to CSR, with a strong emphasis on the internal (corporate culture) dimension. However, SMEs and/or SME managers tend not to communicate externally about the CSR activities of the company. Based on these findings, the paper argues that CSR communication in SMEs is challenged by the global economy and is under revision. The contribution of the paper is to provide an insight into SMEs' present stage in relation to a possible future approach to strategic CSR communication. The paper also reminds us that SMEs have no interest in turning their local and authentic practice into a forced marketing and branding exercise, leaving them with an artificial picture of who they are and strive to be in the future. They should keep on acting locally but force themselves to think globally.

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Anne Nielsen
Aalborg University