Companies' Ethical Commitment: An Analysis Of The Rhetoric In CSR Reports

Caroline D. Ditlev-Simonsen, Søren Wenstøp


This paper investigates rhetoric applied in 80 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports in2005. A taxonomy of five distinct rhetorical strategies for describing the purpose of CSR isapplied; Agency (profit), Benefit (collective welfare), Compliance (laws and contracts), Duty(duties), and Ethos (virtue). The findings reveal that very different rhetoric is applied. Ethos isthe most common ethical perspective expressed in the reports, Benefit and Agency are on secondand third place. Specific patterns of ethical reasoning appear to be common, while otherpossible reasoning strategies are rare. The most prevalent pattern of ethical reasoning is to linkAgency and Benefit perspectives, claiming that Benefit is done for the sake of Agency. Thesefindings constitute a new approach in CSR research.

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Issues In Social and Environmental Accounting (ISEA) - ISSN: 1978-0591