“We are passionate about our social performance” Communicating CSR on the corporate website of a tobacco company

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
International Business Communication
International Business Communication
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Objectives of the study: The thesis is an investigation about the CSR communication of a tobacco company on its corporate website. The study is focused on one case company. The aim is to examine how the case company manages the dilemma between its controversial business and CSR, through its main communication tool (the corporate website). The research questions are formulated as follows: 1) How does the case company communicate about CSR on its website: which issues are emphasized, which textual and rhetorical features are used, and to what extent existing social and political discourses are replicated? 2) What are the expectations of the audience in terms of CSR from a tobacco company? 3) Is the case company’s CSR communication in line with the expectations of the audience? Methodology and theoretical framework: The methods for the study consisted of a critical discourse analysis of the textual material regarding CSR on the selected website, and a web survey. The analysis of the CSR communicative material was based on a model developed by Nielsen and Thomsen (2007), through which CSR communication is studied from four dimensions: perspective, stakeholder priorities, context, and ambition level of the company. The web survey aimed to determine the opinions and expectations of the audience about CSR and tobacco companies. The results from each of the two parts of the analysis were compared, in order to determine which elements of the case company’s CSR communication are suitable to the audience expectations, and which should be corrected. Findings and conclusions: The case company communicates extensively and in detail about CSR. The survey’s results show that this is advisable, in that credibility of the CSR information was linked by respondents to data supporting CSR statements. The CSR topics emphasized by the case company, namely communication of the health risks of smoking, tobacco regulation, environmental responsibility, employees, local communities and philanthropy, are in line with the expectations of the audience, but the importance given to the topics does not correspond to the preferences of the audience. The communication is based on the naturalization of neo-liberal principles, but fails to address aspects that have been recently questioned in the debate about the social responsibility of companies. Hence, some limitations are stressed regarding the case company’s ability to effectively communicate about CSR.
international business communication, corporate social responsibility communication, critical discourse analysis, stakeholders, corporate website
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