What is it about?

Is it all good news when companies are being pushed to be more vocal and explicit when telling the world about their Corporate Social Responsibility priorities and activities? Perhaps so, for the large firm which has the communication muscle to produce the documentation and reports and to engage in the competition for responsible brand recognition. But the small firm with fewer resources and a preference for an implicit CSR communication strategy, may experience some unhelpful unexpected consequences when pushed into the arena of explicit CSR communication. We argue that CSR communication is not ‘just’ communication. It impacts on organizations in multiple complex ways. And not always for the good.

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Why is it important?

Our research has found that looking at CSR from the SME supplier perspective reveals a series of dilemmas which result from large firm CSR communication expectations on their suppliers. At the extreme, rather than raising standards across the supply chain, myopic transfer of large firm expectations to small firm settings could have the opposite effect. We have found that SMEs have to navigate three resulting dilemmas relating to their authenticity, values and identity.


This is a really important paper to me. Working with Mette Morsing has enabled us to bring our respective specialisms of CSR together - mine on SMEs and Mette's on Communication. Some times a collaboration just works, and this one has resulted in more than the sum of its parts. While it is theoretical, we have found it to have consistent relevance to both policy and business practice.

Professor Laura J. Spence
Royal Holloway, University of London

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication and small and medium sized enterprises: The governmentality dilemma of explicit and implicit CSR communication, Human Relations, January 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0018726718804306.
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