What is CSR in CSR Reporting? Case Apparel Retail Industry

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
Corporate Communication
88 + app. 2
Objectives Apparel retail industry has faced severe public criticism due to its abusive labor practices and the lack of commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, in the recent years, apparel industry has gone through a major shift towards more responsible business and thus, its CSR practices have sparked wide interest among researchers. Nevertheless, only little attention has been paid to CSR communication in the apparel retail industry, especially in terms of CSR reporting. Today, corporate reports are considered to be the main channel to communicate CSR and therefore the objective of this study is to shed light on the CSR reporting in the apparel retail industry by answering to the following research question: How the apparel retailers use CSR reports to communicate the Corporate Social Responsibility? Methodology The empirical part of this study consisted of three (3) CSR reports published by large, global apparel retailers. The reports were examined by using qualitative content analysis method. The analysis utilized the conceptual framework formed bon the basis of existing literature to unfold the conceptualization of CSR, application of effective means of CSR communication and CSR message content in the CSR reports of apparel retail industry. Findings The findings of this study suggest that CSR concept in apparel retail industry is aligned with existing conceptualization presented in the literature and mainly consists of environmental responsibility, social responsibility, and profitability. CSR is approached strategically, which indicates a close relationship between CSR and the strategic objectives of the retailers as well as CSR is seen as a driver of economic performance. Moreover, the CSR communication in apparel retail industry aims to closely engage with company stakeholders while ensuring transparency and credibility in the reporting practices. Lastly, CSR message content in apparel retail industry focuses on the impact of CSR activities, business motives and how the CSR endeavors fit the company’s business purposes.
Thesis advisor
Eräranta, Kirsi
corporate communication, corporate social responsibility, CSR reporting, CSR communication