Assessing the relationship between corporate environmental reporting and the embedding of corporate social responsibility in organisations

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The present thesis aims to examine how Corporate Environmental Reporting (CER) could facilitate the embedding of change for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within organisations. The research is based on case studies of two for-profit Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) in Information Communication Telecommunications (ICT), an industry sector with limited previous research into CSR and virtually none on CER. The empirical research involved interviews with employees and reviews of company CSR information. Underlying the research is a literature review of the key concepts used to study CSR and on how CER has been shown in previous studies to be effective in embedding change for CSR. Based on constructs utilised in previous studies, a multi-level framework across the organisational field, organisation, and internal company levels was used to structure the analysis of the data. The analysis of the results shows how CER can be effective in creating change for CSR. A two-way relationship is suggested, which varies from the relationships proposed in the literature to date. The need to develop a CSR approach, and to publish this in the CER, was seen to be based on the organisations’ perception of external pressures for CSR, despite the unexpected absence of stakeholder feedback. Once developed, this CSR approach then influenced organisational change for CSR and how CER could facilitate that change. The use of the multi-level framework assisted in the elucidation of the role of CER in embedding change at each level studied. At the organisational level, CER can create pressure on leaders by creating transparency of company CSR and associated performance targets, which leads to increased commitment to CSR objectives. CER was observed to support the companies’ specific approach to CSR, as well as supporting the performance monitoring and governance processes. Internally to the organisations, the implementation of the CER required processes that synergistically assisted change for CSR. Also at this level, key contributions to research were made by applying two concepts utilised for CSR although not widely used for CER. Firstly, as a discourse on CSR, CER acted as an input to the sensemaking process in favour of CSR. Secondly, the concept of agency was an emerging theme in the research. Here, CER was shown to be a tool agents can use to assist in change for CSR. The key element of the CER discourse that facilitated both these effects was the inclusion of endorsed management policy, targets and rhetoric on CSR, which was seen to counterbalance company messages based on the conventional financial paradigm of profit.
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