Researching corporate social responsibility communication: themes, opportunities and challenges

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Growing recognition that communication with stakeholders forms an essential element in the design, implementation and success of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has given rise to a burgeoning CSR communication literature. However this literature is scattered across various sub-disciplines of management research and exhibits considerable heterogeneity in its core assumptions, approaches and goals. This article provides a thematically-driven review of the extant literature across five core sub-disciplines, identifying dominant views upon the audience of CSR communication (internal/external actors) and CSR communication purpose, as well as pervasive theoretical approaches and research paradigms manifested across these areas. The article then sets out a new conceptual framework - the 4Is of CSR communication research - that distinguishes between research on CSR Integration, CSR Interpretation, CSR Identity, and CSR Image. This typology of research streams organizes the central themes, opportunities and challenges for CSR communication theory development, and provides a heuristic against which future research can be located.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1252
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of management studies
Issue number7
Early online date29 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2016


  • Sustainability
  • Corporate image
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Organizational identity
  • Social reporting
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Communication


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